Small is my garden


Yesterday, I finally trimmed the lavender – my only bush produces just enough to make one dried bunch (don’t laugh). I cherish it all the more ; after all, each flower stem was cut individually by me and arranged by my kids . Making lovely scented sachets is not for us, as it would be heart-wrenching to cut the flowers before they are over, especially as they were, until these last days, the main attraction for bees in my garden (with the purple toadflax and a tiny Sedum Lime Zinger. By the way, I haven’t seen one single bee on the Japanese anemones and wonder if that is normal, as the flowers are wide open and the pollen easy to reach). So, I will have to be satisfied with the one dried and faintly-scented bunch – and satisfied I will be indeed.

In a small garden like mine, every plant, no matter how insignificant in size and interest, has a presence and makes an impact (and I include weeds, for which I have a lot of consideration). The constraints of a limited space induce an interest in plants rather than in garden designing – in my case, this follows my natural inclination towards individual entities (if only in a very sensory-wise manner, as my actual knowledge amounts to zero). Indeed, what is there to design in a plot like this narrow strip running northwards from the house to the shed, where some grass (I daren’t call it a lawn) has to be kept for young children to mess about ? I simply have no space (nor funds) for cleverly winding paths revealing secret corners, let alone screens and pergolas. If I was to invest in something, the priority would be a water butt and a composter. Greenhouses are for my next life.

There may not be much to design, but there is nonetheless a lot to observe and contemplate. It is easy to know your garden when it is this size. I walk in it a lot. I listen, smell, touch, go on all fours to probe under the lowest branches and leaves. I talk to plants and invertebrates – not always in a polite way, mind you. Yet, even here, I can be pleasantly surprised, and at no expense : how many unexpected holly seedlings can you find popping up in a narrow border that you examine everyday ? Is that a little pulmonaria growing under the lavender bush ? Oh, it has a sister a bit further, and another one in the grass ! Yes, I know it is hardly a miracle to find a keen self-seeder like lungwort growing without permission, but for me, it is a first and a joy. I planted three of them some years ago (High Contrast, Pink Haze and I don’t remember which other one), but they seem to have had a hard time during our absence, just about clinging to life. I have moved them to another border where they seem to be perking up a little. I enjoy these simple companions, flowering early and therefore helping bees, and their silver-sprinkled humility.

And then, there is that plant which looked dead when we came back (basically a little woody stump which I didn’t even notice at first), but is now pushing up new leaves. I don’t remember what it is, and am therefore excited to see growth appear – I suspect I’ll need to wait for next year’s flowers to be able to identify it. Looking at it, I am funnily reminded of Argos, Ulysses’ faithful dog, which stubbornly fended off death, enduring old age beyond his time, fighting the battle of hope to see his master once again before passing away. What do you mean, you don’t see the link ? Isn’t it obvious that this faithful plant waited for my return to come back to life ? My story even presents the advantage to have a less pathetic outcome than Homer’ tale !

Retour d’Ulysse par Louis Frédéric Schützenberger (1884).

N.B. Leaving those epic shores, I would like to add that in Poundland, I found Rumex sanguineus (red-veined sorrel) and Chiastophyllum oppositifolium ! The first one is already under attack from some hated molluscs (but I swore not to use slug pellets). The second one is an alpine succulent as happy in the shade (or so I’m told) as I am to have it. 🙂