Jun 06 2010

Open Garden

Our garden at Bramble Torre will open next weekend, June 12th & 13th, in aid of the National Garden Scheme. This is our second year. We passed the test again last year after following those strict instructions to “weed, weed, weed” and here we are in the Yellow Book once more. Oh my, have I weeded.
The months and weeks have sped past and now only five days to go. Borders are trimmed, flowerbeds tended, vegetables planted out, polytunnel tidied, grass cut again and then again.
Embothrium..flaming June
The Embothrium is delightfully late shining scarlet against a blue sky. Roses may be out in time if the sunshine continues. I beg the poppies to wait a while and the delphiniums to hurry up. Will the iris last the week and can the poor battered Ceanothus manage a few more blue clusters, maybe even a sweet pea or two might just show a flower.
It’s been a difficult year. Everything is very late, later even than last year. The unusually cold winter hit so many plants; some struggled through and slowly, very slowly came into leaf and flower. Many plants simply vanished, turning up their toes as drought followed ice and snow followed torrential autumn rain. The lack of rain this spring has been bad for the garden but much worse for pasture. No rain means no new grass for the animals. And like our neighbouring farmers, we are moving ewes and lambs round and round as a little growth appears in each field.
Pink Columbine
Needing to reassure myself once more just how far we have come in twenty eight years I kick off my boots and go to the book shelf to seek out old photograph albums. Surely my memory must be playing tricks but, no; there it all is, just as I remember, my recall accurate; no garden, no garden at all. I find pictures of the huge tumbledown derelict greenhouses which had housed my predecessor’s chickens and threatened me with serious injury from falling glass. There are the pictures of “garden fences” made from old gas cooker parts and corrugated tin, of towering brassica plants, as high as my shoulder, marching up the hill behind the house.A dark, dank tractor shed full of junk and buried treasure crowded out the sun, in its place now, the pond.
There’s our son, Tom, as a teenage knocking down the breeze block walls, as a friend builds the pond, laying paths, building steps; there’s Paul driving a digger to move earth from the back of the house to make a path. There I am chopping my way through the undergrowth, laying cobbles, digging flowerbeds. There we all are taming the wilderness.
the wilderness tamed
There are pictures of the felling of the great Wellingtonia in the front garden after the huge storm in 1989 and the eucalyptus swaying hazardously near the house, threatening the roof in another gale. We think we make progress but nature has her way and will take back the valley in no time when I step back and no one follows me.
1982 no garden, no garden at all, and now….
I can hardly believe ten years have passed since we were ravaged by flood, water crashing through the valley devastating all in its path. I look with horror at pictures of the battered landscape when the water had subsided. I can still smell the rank mud as I look at the pages. I remember my old goose floating in his water filled house, banging his poor old head on the roof before rescue arrived, chickens quickly learning to swim, our huge old tractor sliding and aquaplaning in the yard, sheep fleeing safely up the hill and donkeys paddling in their stables, puzzled eeyores filling the air.
White Centaura
Ten years on and a peaceful garden runs along the bottom of the valley. The stream, very low now, trickles beside the vegetable garden. Chickens peck happily in the orchard. All the while I do my best to hold on to my cultivated strip through the centre, holding back wilderness which will surely tumble into the garden the minute my back is turned. But it is the wildness I love; the contrast of the wild and cultivated thrills me as each harmoniously march side by side from house to farmyard. I love the silence, the shouting birds, fat clouds scudding on blue sky, long grass blowing in the wind, changing light, changing seasons, sheep grazing quietly, donkeys calling out for tea. And above all I love having the opportunity to share this small part of the valley next weekend

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