The first place I owned was a first floor flat, so plenty of houseplants but no garden. I then had a semi which was built on the side of a hill, a small front garden and ascending back garden. It wasn’t a happy time in my life and I have only vague memories of a herb bed at the bottom and raspberry canes up at the top. I tired my best to keep it tidy, mowing the lawns with some difficulty, and it was sort of ok but I took great care of even more houseplants.
Sometimes you make a decision and it unexpectedly brings far more than you imagined. I moved from the semi into a bungalow. It was a new build so the garden was very basic, however I felt energised and happy in the new sparsely furnished place, kept the lawn the builders had laid cut, and a sloping bank which was just left as a jumble I dug over and planted low lying conifers which eventually covered it. There was a hilly bit ion the corner which I kept wild with an apple and plum tree, and then another rather rough lawn with flower beds at the edge which again I filled with herbs.
That house seemed a house of good fortune, before long and very unexpectedly I was married, then the children arrived, then I moved into a different sort of teaching which I absolutely loved, which led to me getting the job in Weston which brought us here. We moved into my dad’s bungalow in Uphill, the perfect spot, next to the Dolphin, but it was too small for us and we weren’t in a position to extend. The garden in the bungalow was mainly lawn with a vegetable patch at the back which we looked after well.
then we moved again into the house we are in now, another happy house! However, it has a rather large garden; lawn at the front, easy, a lawn at the back, easy, beds on two sides, manageable, and the garage on the third side. At the side of the house and on the other side of the garage is an area in which we put raised beds for vegetables. There’s a fence and the other side of the fence is ours as well, and that is where the major difficulty is.
The people who lived here before us planted a prickly hedge on the other side of the fence because there’s a footpath leading from our road to the other part of the village; it’s in constant use and sensibly the previous owners wanted to make it difficult for any unwelcome visitors to get into the garden. The trouble is the prickly hedge grows like absolute fury. Woven among it are vigorous brambles and vigorous ivy.
When we moved in we kept on top of the garden, and used to work quite hard but I have to say it was always more duty than pleasure, although we did have a pleasing sense of virtue at keeping the wilderness in check. I think a stream must run under our garden – there’s a spring a hundred yards or so away, and no matter how dry the summer, everything grows without a pause. We managed to win the battle most years, but the last couple of last years there’s been so much rain that we began to feel on the back foot.
Coupled with our actual lack of keenness and a waning sense of duty, plus the brambles/prickly stuff/ivy, and also a rampant non-flowering honeysuckle, last year it really got away from us by the end of the year. We are busy doing other stuff, writing, painting, music, puppy walking, but no excuses, our garden has become a wilderness. The birds love it of course, but it’s become so out of hand – and with not being able to get to the dump to get rid of clippings, cuttings and mowings, I confess we have been overwhelmed.
But, big but, we have made a plan. Friends in a similar position, or even those who like gardening “get someone in” – well, we can’t afford that so it’s down to us!! We are going to make a list of small tasks which would take about an hour, and we are going to try (but not be too hard on ourselves if we fail) try to put in a shared hour every day, just doing a specific thing. and then we will feel pleased with ourselves. We will keep a log, which we will call the Diary of Virtue. Even if the garden is no better by the autumn, at least we will have tried. I may share excerpts from the Diary of Virtue…
PS My featured image is of our house when we moved in; the small red shrub at the front is now a thirty-foot monster, the spindly bright green shrub is like a giant green football,, and the wall behind has disappeared behind holly and berberis.