Cultivating our garden

by Steve

This is the time of year when it would be easy for me to fall back on the cliché that “The garden is coming back to life” and yet that isn’t the case at all.

The garden has been “alive” through much of the winter. When planting our border I had in mind this bleakest of seasons. I’m not sure how much I really need colour in the height of summer. Yet any kind of colour in the cold months after Christmas feels welcome, vital even.

And so even on the greyest, wettest day I have been able to look out of our kitchen window and see brightness emerge from the murk. The purples of the cordyline, hebe and heather. The luminous red spikes of the dogwood. Blue grasses. More heather, yellow. I am very fortunate.

And now little daffodils are popping up, tulips of various colours don’t seem to be too far behind. I think the border is perhaps at it’s best now, at the end of winter, on the brink of spring.

I begin to plot how to make it work to its best through the rest of the year, so it is not just a bank of green by summer, not too tired in autumn.

The African daisies have made it through the winter, and should provide plenty of colour. The lavender will bring yet another shade of purple. There are more bulbs to come. But I think I will add some crososmia, kept in tubs over the winter, for some late summer brightness, the orange flowers hopefully complementing the early autumn shades around them. Maybe more grasses. Maybe just buy the odd thing as it takes my fancy over the year, see if it takes, see if it works.

Elsewhere we have plans for a small area for wildflowers, to keep the bees happy and to deal with a patch of poor soil that just doesn’t really work for anything else anyway. I’m slowly learning to work with a garden, not against it.

And then the pots, to work out what’s fine from the winter, what needs refreshing, what we could start anew.

There is a great and obvious comfort in a garden. It is a space where you can plan for the future, in a world where doing so often seems futile. It is an escape, a relief.

It is, in a very small way, a connection to something bigger, something that puts the annoyances of everyday life in some kind of perspective. Yet that connection, no matter how small, is also a flag for wider worries. The plants that have survived because of a lack of frost, the bulbs shooting up too early, the pots scattered by high winds, all tiny signifiers of a change in climate. All make the headlines more tangible, more real. More reason for concern. More real if it is there, outside your back door.

And so, more reason to garden. An act of futility in isolation, but with real meaning in the aggregation of all of those people messing around with plants in their backyards. And a place to offer some kind of peace too, something much needed right now.