We soon come to the end of our first year of owning a garden. I have learnt since starting to fumble around in the earth that you should take at least a year after acquiring a garden, to merely dutifully weed and water and nothing else. That way you can see what really grows in your patch, rather than—as we’ve occasionally done—make massive, silly mistakes that end up damaging and possibly killing things.
The garden is definitely in a better state now than a year ago, though. Two of our three fence panels are now re-preserved, and no longer look on the edge of collapse. The shed roof is fixed, if not perfectly—it wasn’t possible to remove the boards that might have made a good pinned-down edge to the felt—and could have another five years in it. The lawn has mostly recovered from being scorched by the by-product of the previous owner’s dog, despite me sowing almost every batch of grass seed immediately before a cold snap.
The clematis that Jeremy so wisely identified has indeed bounced back—riotously so, straining off its trellis like a thing possessed—although the bits that we pruned in spring have yet to flower, which apparently is normal for a clematis. The cherry tree I could have killed is looking less bouncy, but seems to have some sort of tiny black beetle on it that ants are busy harvesting, which might account for the black spots and holes in the leaves. It almost invariably benefits from copious amounts of water, or maybe it’s merely gradually coming into season. So we’ll give it another year at least.
We dug over about half a square metre of our clay-and-chalk border, adding sand and compost as we did: the effort nearly killed us. Four spits of sand the size of a shovel are about our daily limit, so heaven knows how real gardeners do any more than that. While doing so we rather happily disturbed and largely removed the network of roots which were supplying us with occasional grotty sprouts of some sort of ivy, each one smelling of rotting seaweed. In the newly conditioned soil we planted a small mahonia and a smaller pyracantha, and we’ve since been watering them like billy-o in this remarkable June heat.
Most importantly, now that we have a bench and a reasonably grassy lawn our tiny patch of seven by four metres has become a thing of joy. Sitting in it of a morning, moving the bench around to keep catching the shade, having my breakfast and reading a book to the sound of birdsong: how is that not idyllic? Improving a garden is a gradual and time-consuming thing; we’re in it for the long haul; we’ll make many mistakes along the way: but already we’ve got somewhere to hide if we need to, spiritually if not—clematis takeover aside—physically. What else do people have gardens for?