Friday, 22 July 2016

Gardening

Jane Green decides that she can no longer live without a garden –or indeed a vegetable patch, an orchard, a wild-flower meadow...

Written by Jane Green
Creaky Cottage has been ours for a year and a half, and for a year and a half I have lived without a garden. For the first time in my adult life, I have loved living without a garden, because I have gorgeous views over the water, and having no plantings is completely low-maintenance. There are a few seagrassy types of thing that seem to do well with no attention whatever, and the odd cluster of irises and peonies that bloom happily in late spring, despite being ignored.

On the side of our house is a sunny patch of lawn with an old brick wall that is kept upright by a vastly overgrown climbing hydrangea. There is an ugly white fence and that’s it. I have been staring at said sunny patch of lawn since last summer and I finally decided to pull the trigger, for it would make a perfect vegetable garden.

In the good old days, I used swanky and wonderful garden designers to design my gardens, but those days are done. Creaky Cottage is all about low maintenance. Plus, I don’t want to spend the money. And, more importantly, I was pretty damn sure I would be able to design it myself.

I wanted a garden both serviceable and beautiful. A kitchen garden for growing fruit and veg, and flower beds around the edges. I wanted to keep the plantings simple, and have somewhere for a bench on which to drink a cup of tea and enjoy the beauty.

My friend the surgeon then posted that he was moving to Montana and did anyone want to buy his chicken coop. And chickens. What is a girl to do? I took the chicken coop, and decided to add a privet hedge to shield the chicken coop and compost heap from the rest of the garden. But what is a kitchen garden without an orchard?

I stood on the big front lawn, then ran up to the local gardening centre and managed to squeeze eight fruit trees into my van. And what, pray tell, is an orchard without a wild-flower meadow? Wild-flower seed was purchased, and now, two weeks later, the garden is complete. It is too late to plant seeds, so I have planted out the saddest, straggliest fruit and vegetables left at the garden centre: ones no one else wants. It’s a peculiar hotchpotch: watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, butternut squash, aubergines, strawberries and artichokes.

It will be an interesting summer. But what is magnificent is having a garden again. Digging in the soil, planting, pruning and weeding are the things that have always, always calmed me down. Now all I need are bees, and then, dear reader, then I will be happy.

Jane Green’s novel, Falling: A Love Story, is out now (Macmillan, £14.99).


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