I didn’t grow up with gardening parents. I didn’t have any grandparents around either. The first house I can remember was in Crawley and, whilst the council builders must have been told to do something with the front gardens, the back garden was left alone. It was a long garden and as wide as the house so a good size. I can certainly remember the gardens around ours were beautifully maintained. One was mainly law, another had roses growing in the borders and the guy at the end of our garden was green fingered. His garden had a green house in it, as far as I can remember. I used to feel embarrassed because the weeds in our garden must have been an annoyance to him.
My dad, bless him, did try but he wasn’t really interested in gardening and the soil was a nightmare. I now know he should have got loads of top soil delivered. He bravely struggled with the clay soil and his efforts never amounted to anything. Mum had a washing line running the length of the garden and a muddy, grassy pathway under it. Even close to the house the area everyone else had paved was a total trip hazard for us.
I remember there was a hydrangea in the middle of the lawn of the front garden. I couldn’t see the point of it. This put me off the plant for years. Such an unexciting plant when positioned this way.
Our next house had another tiny, but immaculate, front garden. The back garden had been laid to lawn and that was how it remained. At last we had a garden we could sit out in. It was fantastic but I still didn’t know anything about garden plants.
It was only when I bought my second property that I got to do something other than grow house plants. I had a small, but perfectly formed, front garden and I bought a mixed bag of spring flowers. They were so beautiful when they blossomed and caused some wonderful remarks. At last I was learning.
As there wasn’t a rear garden to sit out in I felt the need to move on. I’ve been in my current house for twenty-seven years. I moved in early November so there wasn’t much chance to do much gardening. In the spring, I had some time off and soon realised my garden was overgrown with honeysuckle and clematis. I think it perturbed the neighbours to find the overgrown garden being chopped down. I reckon they felt a bit overlooked. I had to hire a skip to get all the stuff taken away. (Skips were cheaper then and I had it dropped off and collected on the same day.)
I inherited a small long leafed plant I later came to know as a Cordyline Australis. For two weeks of the year it has the most gloriously fragrant flowerheads. When these die back the birds love them. One other thing I learnt about this plant was, if you chop off one part of the plant, two heads will grow back! I also inherited a bay tree. I can’t remember how big it was then but, 27 years on, and I am constantly trimming it to permit sunlight into the garden. I also must trim the growths around the base regularly. I have learnt bay trees like to propagate and they will do it by whatever means necessary. We get baby bay trees popping up all over the garden. Sometimes I pop them into a pot and give them to a friend. I am also fortunate as I have fresh bay leaves available for cooking.
My knowledge of herbs has increased and we have mint, thyme and rosemary. Occasionally we have basil and chives too. I have tried to grow potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and radishes. Some more successful stories than others.
Overall I have decided I can keep the garden tidy and trimmed. I also enjoy putting plants in that can give different appearances over the year. Different coloured stems or foliage. I love fragrant plants but, for some reason, lavender just won’t grow for me.
I once had a front garden at this house but, the need for off road parking, together with the fact the garden is north facing meant I had it brick paved and it looks much smarter. I kept two areas for plants. One is directly under the bay window of the lounge and I have, believe it or not, grown a grape hydrangea against this wall. This changed my view on hydrangeas.
I love sitting in my back garden. In the summer, it is another room to our house and we tend to eat most of our meals out there. I’ve even taken my sewing machine outside.
Last year I broke my arm in two places. I was still able to mow the lawn as I could do that one handed. I couldn’t do anything else in the garden. I had to employ a wonderful chap to help trim the garden before Autumn set in. He did a marvelous job and cleared space for new plants. Now I am looking forward to more beautiful days in my garden.
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