In the garden
It’s one of those glorious late spring days when the ground still harbours moisture, and the sun is not yet burning hot. Everything in my garden is running to seed as the bees busy themselves with the remaining flowers. I pick seed pods from poppies, marvelling at how the red poppies I began with a few years ago have slowly morphed into a gradation of shades from pink through crimson to magenta. I drop the pods into a brown paper bag that I have scrawled a label on, then grab another bag and write chia on it. I cut the seed pods from the chia. Likewise with the Italian parsley, sage and rainbow chard.
My mind wanders as my hands are busy. All these herbs and veggies I have cultivated on this little patch of ground over the years. For most of the past quarter century I have gardened here. I planted everything in it – bar the Cape lilac on the front verge and the Illawarra flame tree in the back garden. I chose the natives that grow in tangled confusion on the verge and the ferns that crowd around the frog pond; the Kalamata olive and the grafted plum along the fence. The geraniums under them came from cuttings my mother gave me decades ago.
I didn’t begin with a plan 25 years ago; my gardening has always been more haphazard than that. The garden has changed and grown with my family. For years there was a sandpit by the back fence for the kids to play in. Chook pens of various shapes, designs and sizes have come and gone. I’ve let things seed themselves and grow where they please. I’ve let my garden beds steal space from the lawn. I’ve made compost and barrowed endless loads of manure and mulch to build the sand into something that grows the plants I want to grow. I’ve never considered the garden finished. It is always a work in progress, always more about the journey than the destination.
And because of all these things, the idea of leaving it fills me with a strange feeling. But leave it I will, and soon; the house is sold, a new one bought. We are in the limbo time of clearing out, sorting out, saying goodbye, dreaming and planning. The new year will see us in a new place establishing a new garden, this time in a softer environment with loamy soil as a base. I’m excited about that! But sad to be leaving.
I mentioned my sadness to my neighbour. ‘That’s appropriate,’ she said, ‘That’s the right way to feel about leaving a place.’ I take her words to heart. Know them to be true. Know also that the sadness can sit, without paradox, beside my bubbling joy at all that the new place holds.
So I am collecting little pieces of this garden to take with me, a little of the old to take to the new. Getting organised now, before the rush of packing and cleaning.
I spend the day picking seed heads and putting them into labelled paper bags. I pot up cuttings of rosemary, lavender, lemon verbena, wormwood and southernwood. I’ve already struck a mulberry cane – a daughter of the daughter tree from my neighbour. I dig up little bits of aloe vera, yarrow, tansy and oregano, and the satellite strawberry plants growing where last season’s runners set root.
I look around the garden at the large pots and begin to plan what I will take and what I won’t. The old potted bay tree (a twenty-first birthday present!) will come, as will my few potted roses and curry leaf tree. I will give the sugar cane to my neighbour – she gave me the original billets from which I grew it. It would struggle in the cooler climate of the south coast where we are headed. Better to give it a home here. The half wine barrel brimming with sacred basil will stay – the pot is too decrepit to survive moving. I pull seed heads from it and drop them into another paper bag, already beginning to think of where I will put my new herb garden. The anticipation tingles. But oh, so much to do in the next month and a half. The to-do lists are the fastest growing things around here at present.
Thanks for reading.
Where are you going Jill?