I was listening this morning to, of all people, Monty Don being interviewed by, of all people, Bel Mooney.
Monty (a gardener) was fluent and passionate about the feeling of spiritual connectedness that he gets from gardening, and from just being in a garden.
It was quite clear that the garden he was describing was an English idyll sprouting cow parsley, chestnut trees and long green grass. It hums hot with all manner of insects, and implicitly involves a discreetly separated kitchen garden.
Well, I can see what he’s getting at. It’s the sort of vision with which I tease myself with increasing regularity. Sadly, my urban garden is more a bricolage of outsize paving slabs, raised borders, bags of green waste waiting for disposal and, predominantly, shed.
The shed is going, to be closely followed by half of the paving slabs. Then we’ll see what those borders are made of.
We have made positive changes, but they are in the main chopping out odd and hopeful plantings that have gone straggly or died, and adding in Things That Will Do Well (such as potted hostas and lilies that are doing frighteningly well).
Now it is time to change the nature of the garden. I’ve been reading a fine book on growing edibles in urban gardens, and it’s turned my head rather.
The first tomato plant went in a couple of weeks ago, and is looking splendidly hale. Yesterday, working from home due to the tube strike, I had time to go out and get lettuce seeds. The runner beans, peppers and beetroot might have to wait until next summer (particularly as we have yet to see how the cats respond to the temptation of tender young vegetables appearing on a kind of feline deli counter).
I can already almost taste, as a form of roundness in my mouth, the home-grown tomatoes (slugs and cats permitting). I am coyly eying reserved areas of flowerbed for tightly-packed crunchy green leaves. Unoccupied trellises promise that they can bear the weight of a full crop.
There does seem to be something in the soil. I don’t think I’m alone in yearning after a life of bucolic fruitfulness. I sense that it’s bursting up through the tarmac again, like the Slow Food movement and the gradual emergence of recycling into everyday life.
Alternatively, perhaps this need for the slow seasonality of living things is a human desire that’s always there, and I’m just beginning to approach it.
On consideration, I prefer the latter for its implications of continuity with a past way that has, therefore, never really been lost. It makes me feel like a child again.