It’s the same with anything. Essays, a particularly unpleasant job, a sink of greasy pans: getting started is the tricky bit. How many times have I stared at a blank piece of paper (more recently, a blank Word document) waiting for inspiration to strike? A task can be made so much more daunting by hesitation. Or previous disinterest, and lack of experience. All of which have hindered my participation in our garden. Actually I think ‘outdoor space’ or ‘wilderness’ might be more accurate.
I do like a nice garden. I like a veg patch, fruit trees, productivity. I don’t really like great expanses of lawn: they make me feel twitchy at the wasted potato space. But as much as I like and enjoy an outdoor space, I haven’t a clue. I never watch gardening programmes, and I always skim over the garden bit in house magazines. We’ve never owned our gardens- always rented, usually shared, often a home for the bins and stray cats, seldom loved. And as this house was a rented house for many years, its garden has also been unloved. There are a few vestigial beds and one or two plants that look deliberate. But on the whole… it’s a mess. A big mess. Seeking inspiration, we went to a nearby National Trust property with a walled garden. It was a sunny day and the garden was incredibly hot behind its protective brick walls, some of which had once housed fireplaces to keep the fig and peach trees happy in their north-eastern Scottish home.
The lettuce rows were things of mathematical beauty and the strawberry plants were blossoming like mad. They even have a yellow variety. But what I found most impressive were the trained fruit trees. There is a tradition that each gardener who works there must train an apple tree, and so there are many examples of training at all stages. We have a small but very sunny wall which I want to train a tree along.
We bumped into a woman Oli knew, and she said, upon hearing my garden woes, that you must start small, right outside your front door, and let it evolve naturally from there. What fantastic, practical advice.
And that sunny wall is right outside the front door.