I know. Gardening hasn’t featured on this blog for ages (not even pictures of the summer abundance !). Its title is starting to feel embarrassingly misleading. I sometimes think of dismembering it into several better-focused blogs. Musings and considerations on writing could be added to Constellation, which is a personal anthology, whereas the Gardening Diary could be developed as posts rather than telegraphic lines on a single page. It would probably show a better consideration for the reader.
I knew from the beginning this blog looked a bit confused in its organisation, but the point of it was less to talk seeds and compost than to explore the connection between gardening and writing through the lens of my own experience, and more generally the impact of gardening on my life. Funnily enough, it was during the two years I spent back in Paris, without a garden, that I thought and wrote most about that, notably through an unpublished novel and poems. I now find myself less able to reflect on this link and this impact. The weakness of my memory, often mentioned as it worries me, may account for the fact that things are less clear now : I have now been gardening for long enough not to remember accurately how things were before. I do still know that gardening changed my life, uprooting some of the deep sadness of my younger years. Becoming a Christian and becoming a gardener were the two parallel conversions that led me to a more peaceful, maybe a more confident self. Things broke down to a more humble and honest compost. The etymological link between “human” (“earthly being”, as opposed to the gods) and “humus” (from which humility more obviously comes) seems too good to be true, but it makes sense. Did I dream of becoming a great tree, rising and spreading as dawn on the mountain side, vibrating with birdsong, crackling in the summer heights ? The truth is I am much more alike to that brown stuff among the roots, from which mushrooms sprout for a day and disappear the next, blind, shapeless, lost in a pictureless dream, unable to know myself, yet somehow warm, fertile, quiet yet maybe powerful.
Unable I might be to reflect on gardening at the moment, but I am still doing the thing. After an October month which seemed to dissolve under a veil of steady rain, this sunny November is a blessing I am grateful for. I have been spending most of the last two weeks planting bulbs in pots, potting up and moving plants around (including acer palmatum Katsura which, after a growth spurt, had outgrown its spot), ever puzzled that such a small plot can absorb so many hours of my time. It makes me consider my dream of a big garden with a smile of circumspection. I would probably disappear for days and only turn up at the door when hunger could no longer be suffered, crowned in spiders and twigs, in an armour of muddy clay, a female version of Radagast the Brown. In truth, I look like that already after a day devoted to ivy business, which always needs to be tackled with consideration for the green bin collection day. It is with reluctance that I am slowly getting rid of the ivy which brought me nesting birds over the years, but the fence is rotting (and I mean falling apart) and, lacking space, I refuse to surrender a third of the borders to the ever growing monster. I know of neighbours who seem to be able to keep their ivy flat against the fence, but I haven’t sussed out their secret.
And so, these last days, I was a bit shocked to find myself entertaining a radically new sort of thought : I may have too many plants. I know. I did check my temperature. Then I realised : is it possible that I might be growing up (maturing ?) as a gardener ? I may have reached the point where the urge to fill the space with every plant under the sun recedes and considerations of harmony and rhythm in volumes take the centre stage. Somebody once said to me that my garden was more like a botanical garden, and I did take it as a compliment even though I knew well that it could be understood otherwise. Plants interest me individually, I want to see how they live, how they will behave in my particular setting, and I don’t tend to use them for overall effect (don’t talk to me about “bedding”). I also have the bad habit of taking cuttings of everything, just to see if, even though I have no idea where they could go. But now… Well, plants tend to grow, don’t they. It’s starting to look too busy for my liking. Oh dear, where is this going to lead me ?