Tentatively thinking about gardening

As long time readers will know, last year was a disaster in the garden.  The sudden death of my mother, my father's deterioration with Motor Neurone Disease and the decline and subsequent death of my father in law all conspired to produce a year which was entirely overtaken by family and family responsibilities.  The garden disappeared under a tide of weeds and unchecked growth and the state of it depressed me so much that I could only manage by not looking at it, not spending time in it, not thinking about it.  Wandering around left me desperately aware of everything that needed attention and attention was the one thing it could not have.  I shut myself off from the garden as much as I could and when I did think about it I was assailed by a sense of failure.  Even what I had done in creating some parts of the garden from a field felt hopelessly inadequate.  My vision of what I was trying to do slid away like water down a drain.  I hardly felt like myself without my garden obsession but then I hardly felt like myself anyway, without my mother, watching my father being slowly rubbed out like a pencil drawing.  Ian kept the grass cut.  That was about it.

But now maybe there are shoots.  Is it somehow part of the process of adjusting to what life is like now?  Is it something to do with the way life goes on?


There are snowdrops and crocuses and the early beginnings of primroses.




There are hellebores, the whites and creams and purples and speckled creams of hellebore orientalis in quantities and the acid green of hellebore foetidus against the dark narrow foliage.


There is the foliage of cyclamen.


The white stemmed birches are growing slowly but are now just about large enough to shed the brown and orange bark of their immaturity and reveal the whiteness shining in the sun.  There are seven of these.  "How long will it be before they are a real presence?" I find myself thinking.


Ian has moved a little black mulberry into the bottom garden and planted a line of beech hedge to increase the sense of enclosure down here.  This bottom third of the field is the only part of the field garden which does not look out across the valley and up to the hills.  The bottom boundary is enclosed by trees and down here you can for the first time look inwards rather than away to the skyline.  The mulberry could be the contemplative centre of that, spreading gently when it reaches maturity.  That might be ten years away but suddenly I found that I was thinking about the garden again, tentatively, slighly warily.  I walked around again, looking again, sometimes really looking but mainly glancing sideways.    I stopped and looked out again towards the hills.



I almost don't dare to fall in love with the garden again.  It is too painful when it doesn't work and who knows what this year will hold.  Perhaps I will simply do a little, take my time, one step at a time.  In a month or so there will an awful lot of daffodils.

Comments

  1. Oh, please do fall in love with your garden again..... A garden is always so 'forgiving' of necessary 'neglect' and like an old and dear friend generously gives wonderful and unexpected comfort when needed most .....Love your writings.....You really speak to me....

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    1. What a lovely comment Chris, thank you. Let us hope my garden is forgiving too!

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  2. Definitely step by step. Your garden always looks beautiful to me Elizabeth, I'm glad you're being drawn back to it again. As Chris says, it's a great healer.

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    1. That is the problem with photos though isn't it? My photos look fine but the wider picture is full of neglect and mole hills! But yes, I think it can be a healer if only I can work out how to find the time for it along with all the other things that pull me away.

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  3. Hope this will be a good re-building year for you...
    Love your Helebores and Snowdrops!

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    1. Thank you. I love them too. It is interesting how individual plants speak to me when my overriding interest normally is in plants en masse and the feeling which flows from that.

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  4. We have a long-time newspaper column (mother and then daughter) that is carried by many newspapers here called "Hints from Heloise" which deals in helpful tips and problem solving for the homemaker. Her advice when confronted by a seemingly overwhelming job is to do 10 things. Pick out 10 things to do, list them, do them and cross them off the list. Being able to cross things off the list gives you a sense of accomplishment and encourages you to keep going to the next task. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, you've made serious inroads into what seemed like an insurmountable task. Wander thoughtfully through your garden, and try to identify the 10 most urgent tasks, the things that most need to be done. That might help lead you back into the garden.

    Perhaps a period of courtship might lead you back to love.

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    1. You are so right that breaking things into manageable bits is the way forward! Today I did some work on hellebores (some of which are grown through with grass in a way which might day help!) and tried to shut out other things.

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  5. I do so love seeing photos of plants I would so dearly love to grow. Take things slowly, try not too take on too much.
    Here I am battling heat, no rain to speak of for months, and this could go on until April. Heaven forbid.

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    1. Heat? What is that? Here it comes from a stove or a radiator. Hard to imagine it just in the air!

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  6. I think it's called grief.

    And I think your garden is gently reminding you that life goes on.

    Take your time and you will be instep with your garden again, it will be full of wildlife and beautiful plants.
    x

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    1. Part of me knows you are right and another part says no, no. It is lack of time. It is lack of energy and skill. Taking my time I can do, as long as I don't look too far ahead.

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  7. To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow, there's no better place to be at such times, it will appreciate and show gratitude for your hard work, but don't be too hard on yourself, just enjoy pottering back out there in the spring! Katie x

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    1. So much of it is about tomorrow. So much of what we have planted, especially trees, will be ten or twenty years in the making. It's a tricky line to walk, seeing that in the minds eye while the day is full of what needs to be done.

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  8. I hope that as the garden continues to grow and starts to bloom you will feel able and inspired to get back out there. It sounds as though it has been a very hard time for you, so I hope that you find some comfort and respite soon. xx

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    1. Thank you Amy. It is hard to lose what you love but only perhaps as hard as it has been good to have it. I know I have been fortunate. Still hard!

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  9. Do just as much as you want. It's your garden and no one is judging you. x

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    1. But I am judging, not myself but the creation! I really don't mind too much what other people think. When I think it fails I sort of feel I am letting the place down. But yes, you are right, I choose and I do the balancing act, or don't.

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  10. Coming back to life, seems natural and yet a bit of a struggle at the same time. Perhaps "just" being with it and listening to what you're feeling and hearing within yourself is the way. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. I think you are right about the listening although it is not as easy as I thought it would be.

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  11. There have been times when we've felt that we've not been able to do what we should in our garden, due to pressures of work and poor health. My brother (a vicar) told me "Ah, but it's there. Waiting."
    Your plans of what to do in your garden might well alter after a spell away from it, but it will be forgiving nonetheless.

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    1. It will be interesting to see how it goes. I do feel to have a different perspective after a year of doing very little.

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  12. Take things step by step, I do believe when your grief moves to a different level you are able to do things again. Slowly at first & it also gives you a different perspective. My garden has been neglected for a couple of years with caring for my dad, I'm rather looking forward to the plans for it taking place this year x

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    1. I hope so. I hope your own plans work out well too and that you enjoy coming back to your own garden.

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  13. Maybe in your mind you should just think of it as a wild garden - then the neglect won't seem too bad.

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    1. Sadly it is so close to wild at the best of times that any neglect tips it from secret garden to mess and chaos!

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  14. Little by little. With a warm sun on a spring day you won't be able to resist. I've just joined the National Trust and walking around a country estate, following the scent of sarcococca confusa and pottering around ancient kitchen gardens has certainly awoken my appetite. Best wishes. Lou.

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    1. I am very much a fair weather gardener and the sun on my back is what I need to get outside. Doesn't have to be warm , although warm is nice, but bright is good.

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  15. Perhaps when spring comes you'll feel that itch to plant something? A mysterious and irresistible urge to nurture and grow something. Start small (seeds are tiny) and who ever said gardens MUST be tidy - you've created a fantastic structure which will be there this year, next year or even the one after.

    Have you thought of planting trees for your mother and father in law?

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    1. I hadn't thought of planting trees like that F. I am rather tempted but wonder how I would feel about leaving hete if I had. I will have a think.

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  16. It's a funny and little acknowledged problem - how gardening is not always therapeutic. Some things are just too difficult to go round or over. You just have to go through them and feel it all. It's hard work but take heart and hope. Then gardening comes back, when there's a space again.

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    1. There is such an assumption that gardening Is therapy isn't there? Certainly last year watching it disappear under bindweed and nettles (never far away here in the middle of farmland and woods) was an additional and quite separate pain.

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  17. Mine is so much humbler a garden than yours that I hesitate to make any comment comparing our experience, but I do feel as if I may be coming back into a renewed experience with mine after leaving its maintenance mostly to my husband for a few years. Such a firm dose of reality it insists on, a garden, reminding us of what we can and cannot control, but then it makes up for its sternness by showing beauty in both ordinary and unexpected ways. Yours is magnificent and I'm so glad you keep sharing it with us, even through your momentary disillusionments...

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    1. I know just what you mean about what we can and cannot control. That is part of the fascination I suppose.

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  18. This sounds so very familiar. You have had a much more difficult time than me, but last year I hardly tended my garden as I teetered on the edge of a breakdown. I fell out of a love a little.

    However, the last few weeks I have found myself keen to make plans, buy seeds, think of the coming season. It will be hard because, like you, I have some horribly overgrown areas which will take a lot of work to bring back under control, but I shall just do as much as I can, when I can. Nature, bless her, will just get on with doing her thing with or without me.

    Slowly, imperceptibly at times, I'm falling in love with it all again. Hang in there, it does happen. I find I am outside now with a different eye, some new ideas, and I hope the garden will - eventually - be better for it. I think I am :}

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    1. I do hope my experience mirrors yours Jayne. Still teetering a bit here. I am focussing on a tiny bit of the picture and thinking just about the hellebores.

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  19. I' m so glad you are renewing your relationship with your garden. There is so clearly so much to enjoy even if you have had to neglect it for a while. I am sure you will find your enthusiasm rekindle as you get stuck in. When things have got really out of hand, the only way you can do it, is bit by bit, like eating an elephant. You get overwhelmed if you look at the big picture, but bite by bite it eventually gets done. This is a great time of the year for catching up. Good luck, I hope this year will be a good one for you.

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    1. Thank you. I am as you say just having a go at a very small part. Quite odd really because I am really a big picture person but you have to start somewhere.

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  20. Elizabeth, perhaps as a city dweller, I am taking a romanticized view of gardening, but I think that your garden will give you joy. It has patience to wait for you to attend to its details, but it will be there when you wish it to be there.

    The photographs you've shown us in this post tell me that already some lovely garden friends are calling to you. xo

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    1. I like the idea of the patient garden Frances!

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  21. That's the thing about a garden, Elizabeth. It will wait for you. It may not be the same - in fact there may be changes that you like and dislike - but it will be there. We can't predict what is coming around the corner, (and you had your share of the unexpected last year!)but we know that the garden will go on. We don't have to do it all, all of the time - and this is something I am learning sl-o-w-ly. When you don't get into the garden you're not diminished or in any way lacking - it's that BIG life you have.
    There - I've been preachy, and wonder if I shouldn't delete what I've written. No - I'll let it stand and hope that the garden will be something of refuge for you and not something that fosters feelings of guilt.

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    1. I think my problem is how recently I have begun to carve my garden from a field. As a result it reverts to field pretty ouch as soon as you turn your back on it.

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  22. Take your time...and have a great time in the garden! Beautiful pictures and a lovely post too...
    Warmly,
    Titti

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    1. I suspect taking it slowly us the only way although that is not my natural way of doing things!

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  23. It takes time, but the garden will be there when you are ready and will hopefully be a healing sanctuary as you get your hands back into the soil. After a few turbulent years myself I had a love hate relationship with my huge garden depending on if I was coping with life ... or not. It either over whelmed or drew me back in and nurtured me. Sadly last year I had to sell my beloved home and garden. For now I am renting and looking after the garden here on a temporary basis. It's my in between garden buts it's giving me space to refocus and not be over whelmed by everything. You will get there I am sure. In the meantime, breath deeply and enjoy those beautiful views you have :)

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    1. I know just what you mean about swinging from being nurtured to being overwhelmed. There does not seem to be a middle way, for me at any rate!

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  24. Beautiful as always, and gently uplifting post despite passing through painful times Elizabeth... Thank you. Can we allow in that sustaining succour of nature that surrounds and is just waiting to wrap around to re-enter our lives??....Yes, I am sure we should give way to that....I have gained such comfort over years.....by realising gardens are 'so very forgiving.'......Thinking of my parents as I write....

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    1. Interestingly the natural life which is all around me in a place like this is reliably sustaining. I suspect the difficulty of the garden is to do with trying to create something rather just living with what is there of its own accord.

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  25. Beautiful post showing how the garden mirrors your emotions at the moment...slowly and imperceptibly you will see it awakening again. Maybe not the same but still beautiful for the soul...all the best in your little faltering steps .
    Most probably because my garden is in a temperate climate I do so love those flowers which grow and thrive in the cold...Hellebores remind me of my late sister who lived in a cool climate .
    Blessings
    Alexa-asimplelife visiting from Sydney, Australia

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    1. I do love hellebores, and snowdrops in quantity. It's the sense of life to come as well as their own beauty

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  26. So much beauty captured here, hard not to fall back under its spell...

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