People often chuckle at me when I tell them one of my hobbies is gardening. At 31, it’s not really regarded as cool or modern, rather something that is only done once you have achieved grandparent status. But without me really realising it, I was brought up on gardening. My dad owned a pet and gardening shop that was passed down from my grandad and his before that, so weekends and after school would often be spent on the shop floor, helping – or more likely hindering – my dad.
I always remember helping my grandad sow seeds in one of his two greenhouses. He had an old peg that he would use to make the hole and I would clumsily drop the seed into the centre and pat the soil down around it. After a sprinkle of water, magic and a number of weeks life would start to appear and each time I visited I would head into the garden to see what we’d created. My favourite was always the broad beans, mainly because my grandma would let me pick and pod them and then eat them, squeezing them from their skins straight into my mouth.
My other Grandad’s garden was a maze of winding paths, fruit trees, roses and rockeries. I would spend hours playing with imaginary friends in made-up stories and I remember it always felt like there was more to discover, a bit like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.
Then when I grew a little older, gardening became a chore. Mum would drag me and my siblings into the garden to help sweep, weed and cut the grass. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse she’d make us edge the grass and then do the watering. I stopped seeing the wonder and magic and I suppose I didn’t recognise the love my mum had for the garden that she’d learnt from her dad. A dreaded trip to the garden centre brought frustration at more lost hours to horticultural boredom.
What I wouldn’t give to turn back time and look at those chores differently. To learn from mum what she loved about the garden, what brought her the most joy, but to mostly just be with her in a place I now understand she found peace in. I know that because it’s how gardening makes me feel. The calm and sense of achievement it brings helps me to balance the stresses in my life. The thrill of watching something you have planted grow and turn into something magnificent is quite extraordinary. And then when you get to eat something you have grown, well that is the cherry on top – quite literally as my cherry tree is coming along nicely!
As I sit writing this, the sun is shining down on my beautiful little garden. The caterpillars are ravishing my broccoli, my carrots are screaming to be pulled, my figs are basking in the heat and my eucalyptus is bobbing gently in the breeze. And I am happy.
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