Monday, 22 June 2015
It's been over a year since the move. A year of discovering new gardens. A year of rediscovering gardening and what it is to be a part of that.
Since my first days apprenticeship nearly seventeen years ago I've worked for myself in a couple of cities, the National Trust in Cornwall, the odd small holding here and there and a permaculture farm in the foothills of The Black Mountains. Nowhere have I been happier than where I am now and nowhere do I feel I've been a better gardener or better understood what it is to be a gardener.
City gardens tend to be postage stamp spaces hammered into place by the surrounding concrete, even the large gardens beautifully tended and spacious meet a definite barrier at some point however carefully hidden. This comes down to the entire environment of the garden, birdsong swallowed by the sound of car stereos and sporadic but daily sirens, the sky line punctuated by the harsh lines of buildings. Perhaps this seems a trifle harsh and perhaps it is, but the truth is until one has actually experienced the visually endless expanse of field, forest and farm land and really heard the birdsong clear all around you, you don't know the alternative. Compare the relief of stepping out of a suit into looser comfier clothes, the release your body feels as you loosen the collar.
The gardens I now find myself in are part of the landscape no matter how formal they may try to be, the awesome presence of rolling hills and giant trees humbling the grandest of borders . When the weather is rolling down a valley towards you and there's nothing you can do other than hunker down, get your clothing right and work through it, that's when you really feel it. A peg in the land, your back exposed to the sky, fingers deep in the soil and rain driving through you blurring the lines between air, skin and earth. That bright summers day after weeks of sun when a sudden shower sweeps across, soaking all below it before leaving as suddenly and the ground feels refreshed, you duck out from your shelter and laugh along with the garden as you feel the plants drink in the moisture and lift their now cleansed heads.
Toiling away in one of my most loved gardens I get to hear of it's history, how long it's been in the family, the planting and designs done by past generations, I hear of rose borders created for weddings, trees planted to commemorate a date now forgot. The soil that now cements itself forever in my hands has been worked by countless gardeners before and hopefully will do so for many more to come. I'm just a passing moment in the gardens history, barely a blink to many of the trees and not even a whisper in the surrounding landscape. The hedgerows that flow out as far as I can see were old when my grandparents were babies and many of the trees that punctuate the skyline were hundreds of years old when the land was still worked by hand.
It's this that truly marks country gardening from city gardening for me. Out here I feel a part of the garden in ways I've never had the chance to before, I feel not only that I am shaping the ground and growth and around me but that it is shaping me, there's a level of symbiosis where we feed of each other and both become stronger for it.
Truly this is the essence of it, to exist in a state where there is no difference between gardener and garden.
There is just the garden.