The View From The Back Door -- Susan Price.

This is the view from my kitchen door.
          About three years ago, I was idly watching a tv programme which showed a view of a perfectly neat, ordered garden, divided by a straight path with neat, straight-edged beds of flowers neatly arranged on either side with perfect symmetry. The presenter asked, 'Doesn't everybody want a view like this from their back door?'
          My answer, instantly, was NO!
          I had been wondering what to do with my garden, which made me feel dull every time I looked out at it. I hadn't any ideas until the TV asked me that question. Instantly I knew, and strongly, that I did not want a neat garden. I did not want plants growing in neat straight lines. I did not want geometry or symmetry. Such gardens can look wonderful, that is certain, but it was not what I wanted to see when I drew the curtain back in the morning.
         Knowing what I didn't want crystallised my thoughts. I knew, certainly, that what I wanted to see from my back door was a patch of wildness, a bit of countryside. I dug a pool. I planted wild flowers. I planted trees (some of them in big pots.)

          My garden is steep and I've left the upper level, under the hawthorn hedge, to go wild -- well, mostly. There is a birch tree, a purple hazel, a crab apple, a small holly -- and brambles, wild rose, foxgloves.
         In spring there are snowdrops, primroses and bluebells -- and at the moment the ground is covered with the white flowers of sweet woodruff and the pink flowers of herb robert.

You know angelika? That stuff you sometimes get on cakes, in tiny, candied green strips. Well, this is angelika, below. Seven foot tall and still growing. It's wild celery. Or so one person told me. Another said it was wild parsnip. It's pretty wild, whatever its name.

      I seem to have a liking for huge, overwhelming plants: elsewhere I have teasels.And giant thistles that you can't get within a foot of without being painfully stabbed. 'Touch Me Not With Impunity'-- too right. I'm told the bees love these thistles though as far as I can see, the bees prefer every other flower. Perhaps they don't like getting stabbed either.

           This is the view as you come back down the steep steps towards the house -- the pool is thick with duck-weed in this shot, but the water lilies are coming to the surface. You can just glimpse the brick wall of the house behind the foxglove in the background.

Rosa Mundi -- the 'rose of the world', the monastery or apothecary rose.

Pinks, named for the petals' frilled or 'pinked' edges.


     What has any of this to do with writing? Well, the garden is where I go when I'm not writing or when I'm stuck. I've often advised students that, when they're stuck for an idea, they should go and do something that's completely removed from writing and something physical, if possible. In the garden, I lug great bags of compost about; I dead-head, weed, tie-in, pot-on, prune, harvest and forget all about writing and even the government we're lumbered with.

Here is heartsease:--


Bill Kirton said…
Thanks, Susan, (for helping me justify my idleness). For a few weeks now I've been chastising myself for not tackling the jungle outside our back door. I don't have the same plants as you (with some exceptions), but there are still plenty, and they create the same effect of tangled, tumbling shades and shapes of green mixed with clumps of colour and narrowed paths still easy enough for me to negotiate, (except when I'm pushing the garden waste bin out on collection day). I can now sit back and think 'If it's good enough for Susan, it's good enough for me'.
Umberto Tosi said…
I'm with you, Susan. I want it to be a jungle out there!
I'm with you on the wild flowers. I planted the first foxglove in my garden last year (purchased from a local village's Open Garden where they grow everywhere). It flowered a couple of months ago and has since set seed, so hopefully next spring my garden will be full of them! I guess when I sell the house the next ownders will deck/concrete the lot, like my neighbour at the back, but for now it's a little wildlife haven full of butterflies and bumble bees.
Susan Price said…
Thank you all -- and Bill, your description of 'tangled, tumbling shades and shapes of green mixed with clumps of colour and narrowed paths' is exactly what I want. And some tomatoes, potatos, chilis, onions, tayberries...
Sandra Horn said…
Thank you, Susan - a woman after my own heart. My garden is a wonderful tangle of wild and cultivated things and I no longer apologise for it to those with neat straight edges - they've got it wrong, not me! It's a refuge for my fizzing brain too.
Definitely on your side, Susan. My garden has become slightly too much like a jungle in the past couple of years, although the cat and other assorted wildlife seem to like it like that.

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