Today I begin my first job on my very own garden. I mean, it belongs to a woman named Claire but I will be its sole gardener. As a mixture of excitement and encroaching responsibility grab hold of me, I am grateful to be shown the ropes by its previous keeper Jacqui.
Taking an Inventory
First thing’s first. We have a good, slow walk around and I name what I can, taking an inventory of what I’m going to be working with. I can see luscious and overgrown boarders humming with yellows, pinks and purples. Behind May’s dwindling bluebells sprout a few bright magenta Allium’s that I make a mental note to rescue as soon as we begin – but not yet – this precious time at the beginning of a visit is for thinking and surveying. A slate path leads to a shed at the back of the garden, I see the majestic points of Echinops leaves spread proudly in the shade, they promise amethyst thistles later in summer. Hellebore and Ferns occupy darker corners beneath a blushing Weigela coming to the end of its bloom. The garden is strewn with splashes of yellow from rape, the occasional foxglove and a healthy hypericum. Between these louder colours, a sparkle of white whispers in subtlety from ground covering daisies and lulling heads of wild garlic to the delicate Hawthorne flowers at the top of the hedgerows.
There is a lot to get done here but for now, it feels important to enjoy the garden as it is; brimming with wildness.
Breaking the Ice
There’s nothing like weeding to break the ice with a garden you haven’t worked in before. I also feel I ought to know my enemies if I am to keep them at bay. So Jacqui and I get to work on the beds. The main culprits always vary depending upon location but in this garden, they are bindweed, dandelions, chickweed and a seriously invasive ornamental grass.
I feel the soil. It is quite clayey and rather stony in places but looks like it will hold moisture well.
What Kind of Garden is it?
I notice a significant amount of trouble that has gone into making the garden a varied habitat for all kinds of local wildlife. It is full of hidden corners and piles of leaf litter for little creatures to hide in, there is a gap in the fence to encourage the return of a fox, there are little nests for sleeping hedgehogs and a bird table where a mother starling and her two adolescent chicks are squabbling.
I go in for an initial mow and edge of the very overgrown lawn and hear a voice call out: “Be sure to keep it on a high setting we saw a slow worm in here the other day.”
In addition to the rich wildlife in the garden is the occupant of three beautiful cats.
I hear a loud rustle and the rip of tearing roots to see Jacqui holding a deracinated and leggy lavender bush.
“That was an executive decision, Miranda. When you’re in charge of this garden you’ll get to make your own executive decisions,” she announces as she tosses the decrepit shrub into the waste bin.
I drink my post-shift tea with a feeling of hope and anticipation.