I suppose it is fitting that I am contemplating leaving my garden just when it is coming into its own. When we moved in three summers ago, the garden was choked with weeds – in the back, stinging nettle and brambles stood well over 2 meters and formed an impenetrable mass. In the front, construction work had gouged out all the topsoil, and goutweed and bindweed strangled the all-but-moribund roses.
I could have had someone else take care of it. But I looked upon this unpromising wilderness as a challenge. And, more importantly, as a gym – my very own green gym. Rooting out stubborn and deep weed roots, digging in garden compost, trundling a heavily loaded wheelbarrow – these have constituted my daily exercise. And the beauty of it is that it was all spent outdoors, blessed with fresh air and sunshine (hmm… rarely) and drizzly rain and mist, and graced with the company of a resident cheeky robin and serenaded with birdsong. And over the many hours outdoors engaged in this very enjoyable toil, I had in my mind a picture of Okuyama-san, my mentor in Yuzawa, Akita in Japan, and his daily routine of 2 hours before breakfast and 2 hours again before supper of garden work.
I also rejoiced in being able to bring a benzine-powered lawn mower to life. What a triumph for me to overcome my fear of starting one of these engines! Though I admit, an electric one or, better still, a cordless one would be my preference. I guess I am a gadget lover at heart – and I am rather pleased with my cordless weed whacker.
Here are some results of my efforts. Not perfect, but such an improvement over the bramble-and-nettle wilderness of three summers ago. And to top it all – we’ve had the reward of gorgeous flowers with their infinitely varied forms and colours and scents!
Not to mention the incomparable experience of feasting on home-grown artichokes. And as well seeing the look of surprise on passers-by when they ask what the huge flower buds are that look familiar (but they cannot place them) that are growing in my front garden. Artichokes?!!! In Bonn?!!! Yes indeed. The bounty of nature — as Okuyama-san so often intoned.
I mustn’t forget to include the companionship of Frau Grau, who tends the spinney that adjoins my back garden. We have spent hours chatting over the fence, about all sorts of topics — from the use of kaolin (Heilerde) for the runs and Echinacea (she pronounced it the German way, which stumped me initially) for colds. And I have been blessed with her cherries and plums, freshly picked from her trees. And I have given some of them to her back, bottled as jam.
For all of these blessings and the joy of tending a garden from untamed wilderness to (slightly) tamed wilderness (I prefer my garden to be a bit on the wild side) — I am deeply grateful.
There was nothing here in this space by the back gate three years ago, and now moss (encouraged with doses of yogurt and buttermilk), wild strawberries, and ferns and campanula adorn the granite stone wall. And in the small patch below, more campanula, Heucherella, and blue-flowered Jacob’s Ladder are blooming, spangled with the fallen petals of the jasmine-scented Philadelphus.
One of the bamboos, surrounded by soon-to-bloom daylily and Crocosmia “Lucifer.” Despite the moles and voles tunneling underneath, this bamboo is thriving. Unlike the other two in huge tubs, this one is in the ground and staying behind.Geranium Rozanne — so generous with its blue flowers all summer long — and multi-coloured and perfumed Sweet Williams.
The artichokes that caused an elderly gent on a bike to get down and pause the other day, curious as to what it was. Multiflora roses and a volunteer (self-sown) evening primrose (the tall, pale yellow flower behind) are its companions.
One of the experimental artichokes at the back — of 10 planted, 9 survived the past winter without the protection of a warm wall. We ate the largest bud the other day, roasted, slathered with olive oil, Spanish-style (alcachofas al horno) and dipped in lemony vinaigrette — it was nutty and took well to roasting. Much better flavoured than the ones that had grown in front, warmed and cosseted over winter by a South-facing wall. I wonder whether the truism holds here — of fruits, in this case a flower, tasting better and with more character, because of adversity. Hmm…