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:--