It’s not easy being a creative gardener. Especially when you still feel a novice after years of hard gardening graft.
I can’t help thinking that by now the rusting, mud-effect on my tools, and the grub enmeshed in the cracked dryness of my gardener’s hands must surely reflect the fact that I’ve put in my gardening dues and am well on my neatly trimmed path to becoming a ‘sort of’ expert.
Oh, not the BBC or proper gardening blog sort of expert who knows the names of every plant. Course not. But an everyday ‘hands on’ out in the garden doing something come rain, sleet or shine kinda expert . . . surely, I should have become that, shouldn’t I?
Only I haven’t.
Instead, I find myself at a gardening cross roads and in a unique position – one I’ve not experienced before.
Years back, when I first sowed the first Creative Gardener seeds, I pottered and pruned my way round an average and healthy-size rented garden. Since then we’ve moved into our own home. Twice.
Our first garden was an overgrown wonderland that overlooked fields to the back – which, incidentally we couldn’t see until we’d hacked our way through the overgrowth – and woodlands to the right. It was a beautiful beast that needed taming into submission and demanded constant attention.
In the year we lived there, I transformed the garden: digging up the most gigantic tree roots possible, removing – having fallen into it twice – an old pond, and hacked back endless shrubs and tree branches. I dug over the lawn to lay turf and planted a variety of mature and small plants.
And then we sold up and moved and I never had the opportunity to see whether the wild beast approved of my transformation: whether the garden flourished or faltered in my absence. I never learned whether my instincts – I was way out of my gardening depth – had been spot on or not.
Exhausted by the hard work of such a demanding garden I was delighted that our new cottage garden was small and manageable – a kitten rather than a beast – and apart from a few weeds was a neat, compact and offered an empty drawing board.
A little dull and bland, maybe. But once the straight path was moved – transitioning into the most beautiful curved path imaginable – the garden began to speak and in time, sing.
During the spring and summer my time gardening was fun and effortless. With so much empty border to fill, I planted endless rescued plants from the bargain section of garden centres and lots of welcome donations. Finally, I felt the the total pleasure that comes from watching your garden bloom before you – seeing your creation come to life.
With late summer came the realisation that not all the plants were as settled and as content as others. Some areas of the garden were soggier and I discovered that plants like my Alabama Surprise just weren’t happy in their new home. Others had simply outgrown their initial space. And so came a period of re-housing those in need of a change.
All was well again.
But then came a more worrying dilemma as summer faded into autumn and several plants like my lupins were beginning to show signs of severe unhappiness. While others shrivelled from their former glory in the first frost.
Now, as we approach the new year, I find myself in an uncertain position as a creative gardener pondering whether I should be deadheading these frizzled plants of our now full-to-bursting garden, or not.
What I do know, what I finally understand is that the planting bit is the easy part of the equation. Keeping the garden alive and well . . .ensuring that it flourishes throughout the year, that’s the tricky bit. That’s the true measure of a creative gardener.