The weather is topsy turvy, Winter one day, Summer the next. Rain has soaked into every surface, large puddles forming over blocked drains and low-lying corners. Too often the days when I’ve no commitments have been the rainy ones, while the sunny weather has come while trying to do other things, my garden staying ignored. Still, I’ve managed to get out there a few times, notching up a full day at the weekend, followed by another while the boiler installation was taking place. Because yes – I finally have a new boiler after well over a month without heating or hot water (given that the shower is also out of commission, this has meant getting clean has been really, really hard.)
Two days in the garden can really have an impact – the large bed nearest the house has now largely been cleared, a lot of rubbish cleaned up, and the first portion of fence has been painted. A row of raspberry canes has been planted, the wonky arch lashed to some bamboo canes to hold it together, and the might-be-honeysuckle rescued from the old house planted next to it. Pots have been refreshed or reclaimed, plants have made it into the ground and a huge pile of trimmings from the rosebush have been shredded into a make-do compost pile – and ouch, what a prickly job that was. It was Lily’s turn to cook on Sunday, and surprisingly she announced that as it was nice, we’d eat outside – so my efforts weren’t unnoticed. She proceeded to sit on the bench that Simon had made for our former home, only to have it completely fall apart beneath her, the wood rotten through despite my attempts to paint it and preserve it. There is probably more than an ounce of symbolism at stake here. Thankfully both she and her dinner survived intact. The bench though will sadly be heading to the tip. Strangely many of the items that tell a story about our relationship have broken since moving to the new house, as if to remove themselves and memories of Simon from my new life. Sometimes we fail to realise the negative connotations that an item holds until we finally get rid of it; the bench definitely falls into that category.
A design for the garden is something I’ve not made a lot of progress on, however. I’ve designed gardens before; two for our previous homes, and a radical redesign for my parents’ garden. This time around, I’m struggling to put anything down on paper, because the garden doesn’t make sense on paper. If you take a sheet of A4, measure a centimetre and a half across to show the garden’s width, and draw your two lines upwards to represent the length, it takes up most of the page. The dimensions are crazily long and narrow, a type of plot that’s notoriously difficult to design for. No matter what I try to draw on the page, it looks odd and disjointed. I’m also hampered by the fact that whatever I design I’ve then got to create myself, rather than handing over a blueprint to my on-site Ground Force team. So there’s no point in getting too fancy; it has to be achievable.
Perhaps this time I will allow the garden to grow itself organically, rather than imposing a design on it. A few ideas are already firmly in place; the bottom of the garden is a wild retreat, there will be roses, poppies and a grapevine, and I want a herb garden. Ideally a pond with somewhere to sit and watch the fish, ideally a little potting shed/greenhouse; these may be pipe dreams but Pinterest makes everything seem possible.
Sitting on the sofa, I can now see my newly-painted trellis outside; it’s half-rotten and falling apart, but it will have to last as long as possible. The paint job cheers me up though; it’s mine, the beginning of a reclamation of both the garden and my soul. It sings of progress, of moving forward, of celebrating small achievements. More than that, I want to get back into the garden and carry on – the first time I’ve wanted anything other than for life to just stop in a long time. Progress indeed.