Hello again. Well, this blogging business was first suggested to me by my husband, amused by my newly found passion for growing things and fighting slugs and snails (a battle which I am losing). So, a gardening blog this will be, most of the time. It could be entitled : “The ignorant and hopeful gardener”. I apologise right away for this long and boring post.
I live in a little terraced house and my north-facing (alas) garden is very small. When we moved in two years ago, it was a lovely low maintenance garden, with established shrubs, lots of ivy covering (and supporting) the fence, ferns and grasses. Some plants forming the hedge might have been chosen to deter burglars, like the firethorn or a big climbing red rose with fierce claws. As for (visible or noticeable) flowering, the neighbour’s magnificent wisteria was covering the shed’s roof, fighing for space with the exuberant honeysuckle (a true Miyazaki monster, see picture). There is a forsythia, the aforementioned climbing rose, two hebes, a potentilla fructicosa (or so I believe).
I did not touch a thing in this garden… until recently. The only thing I did was to try to rescue a miniature rose from M&S which was a gift. I planted it in a random place in the flower bed in front of my house. My in-laws, who are probably the best in the world, came to help and mowed the garden, pruned the shrubs, kept the ivy in check. I, meanwhile, had my pirate daughter and tried to survive.
Last autumn, my father-in-law took me to the garden centre (we are one of those people without a car) and I just thought : I want more colours and more flowers. So I bought bulbs. Daffs, Irises, tulips Angelique, alliums, crocuses, fritillaries. And an hellebore. Planted them more or less randomly. Now it is Spring and I have had a nice display – I mean flowers and colours. I have been buying mixes from various high street shops to enhance my collection with peonies, renunculas, anemones (which won’t work in my clay), agapanthus, aquilegias, lilies, acidantheras, bleeding hearts. Most of them have not flowered yet.
Now here is the thought : I believed I wanted a cottage style garden, informal and flowery, like most of my neighbours’ plots. And only by planting did I realise it was not going to work. Indeed, I have inherited a relatively formal setting where there is limited space available for planting. With young children, I can’t sacrifice the lawn yet. And I have neither the means nor the time to change the whole layout. So, I can’t change the whole thing, and I don’t see it working as a cottage garden. I want something else, which would work as a whole, a beautiful ensemble. All this, with me being a complete beginner and an impatient ignorant.
I realise now that what makes this apprentissage so interesting is the emergence of an intellectual, if not conceptual, process in the way I envisage the garden, its cultivation and my approach to it. My father-in-law had drawn my attention to the fact that gardening is not at all a communion with nature of some sort, as we are constantly fighting bugs and weeds, diseases and what we perceive as ugly shapes. But it isn’t either an physical outdoor activity which will give your tired mind a desired rest. No. I slowly realise that my garden is like the sheets of paper where, some years ago, I had to answer a question and lay down a dissertation (in three parts and nine subsections – yes French schools). How to achieve that harmonious and meaningful composition ? The flowers are individually pretty, but together? Moreover, just as in an essay, where the teacher is trying to determine whether you can think on your own and form an opinion which is not just borrowed from some famous book, you want your garden to say something relevant and personnal.
Now all this is obvious for anybody who has any gardening experience. For me, it is a discovery and I must say I am a bit disappointed. I thought that planting anything, waiting and then witnessing its awakening and the unfolding of its mysterious beauty would be a simple and unshaded joy. Now things have to be grown not for themselves, but as elements of a abstract plan, colourful reflections on an immaterial dream (I know, dreams are immaterial, right?). As a result, I’ll always be disappointed, even if my skills were great.
That’s not even mentioning my “coup de sang” for the Japanese maples (which should arrive tomorrow… please). Japanese maples are like a dream. That, as well as my losing battle against molluscs, will have to be treated another time. Again, apologies for this long post.