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New Garden Fence -> Feverish Planting

November 17, 2009
House Return Showing Newly Repaired Fence

House Return Showing Newly Repaired Fence

A few months back, we had the garden fence repaired round the back of our house. It had been down for about 5 years, and for the first time since we bought the house back in 2003, I felt like getting out into the backyard and into the garden.

At first my sole intention was to get rid of the weeds and make it look passable, presentable. The previous occupant had paved the whole expanse in flags and concrete, except at the far end, which has a raised breeze block flower bed, which was waist deep in brambles and grandmother’s bonnet, so without extensive re-development, the best I could hope for was to keep it tidy.

I weeded, (and there were some mighty weeds to be contended with, coming up through the flags like Poseidon rising up through the waves). I treated the new bit of fence, which made the old bit look tired so I did that too. Which had the same effect on the fence at the other side, so I did that as well. And then I whitewashed the walls of the buildings backing onto our property, because the bare brick and rendering looked shoddy compared with the pristine fences.

My Flower Tubs

My Flower Tubs

And then I got the crazy notion that, even though I couldn’t really plant anything in the earth, what with it being concreted into oblivion, I could still shove some plants into the few plant pots that the previous owners hadn’t taken with them. This is the bit that hooked me.

I bought a polystyrene block of pansy buds from Homebase, along with a slab of compost, and I put the two together with a sprinkling of water. A few days later, the pansies flowered. In my own small way, I made a flower. I was thrilled.

After that it got a little ridiculous. Very quickly, I had twenty pots on the go, with sweet pea, snowflakes, dahlias, magnolia, french marigold, a palm and some geraniums. I started to plan a trellis with wisteria to be cultivated over the next few years into an arch which will frame the garden breakfast table we bought. I couldn’t go past a garden centre without picking up a tub or two.

After a chucking away a short plastic partition, a small patch of earth revealed itself. Real live earth! So I dug it out, added some compost, and planted it up. I can’t even remember the names of the flowers I planted. In fact, I added too much, and the poor things were falling over themselves to snatch a glimpse of daylight. But, they thrived, no thanks to me, as did the rest of the containers. At one point we had flowers blooming in every part of the garden, and the sweetpea was climbing all over the dead branches of whatever kind of bush it was that I managed to kill with weedkiller several years ago. The whole thing had come alive. I even let the grandmother’s bonnet flourish, as it brought lots of much appreciated colour to this tiny part of SW16.

Some flowers, the names of which escape me

Some flowers, the names of which escape me

As the summer faded and the plants could no longer support the flowers they’d raised, I resigned myself to the inevitable that the garden would retrograde back into the drab wasteland it had been. But that’s not been the case. The place is still infinitely greener than it was before my planting frenzy, with the evergreen that my mother-in-law salvaged from the bargain shelves at Homebase showing there’s still life out there, and the grasses and stalks of the perennials giving us a warming dash of brightness here and there. And the flowers that made it into the earth, the small patch I over-planted, they have no intentions of going away – they cling on in the face of wind, rain, frost and overcast days, like Dylan Thomas’ Dad raging against the dying of the light.

I appreciate this is small potatoes compared with other people’s backyards, and it’s not unfeasible that this is a petty fad which will pass, like learning to program Ruby or learning Spanish. But I’ve been at it about 8 months now, and I’m still keen. I still have much to learn about gardening – even basic garden maintenance eludes me – but I don’t think it matters. Some things I plant will grow, some might not, but I’m out there getting fresh air and exercise and doing my best to nurture life where there was none, to make something beautiful out of nothing. I have returned to the soil. I have, if not green fingers, at least slightly muddy ones. I am a Maker, a grower.

Much is planned for the New Year, for which the groundwork is being done over the weekends, what with it being too dark to get out there after work. Ah, but that will have to wait for a later post.

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