Before I start writing this journal, I’m going to (try to) contain my excitement and tell you a little about myself and how I got into gardening.
Originally from Asia, I have spent a few years in Ireland followed by the Southwest of England and now finally, London. The idea of moving into the big smoke was daunting at first and I must admit, the first few months were challenging. We have now found the garden (both indoors and outdoors!) a source of much needed peace. In a way, it has rescued us as we tried to revive it to its former glory.
Most of my life was spent in the breathtaking Himalayas where I attended boarding school. Homesickness and the pressure of exams with strict rules meant there was no time to think about extra curricular activities outside of what the school allowed. Sadly, I probably took for granted the hundreds of varieties of roses growing in the tiered flower beds over the exposed mountains. Their extraordinary scent and beautiful shades could help you forget the pressures of the upcoming exams. Needless to say, I developed a close association, subconsciously, with roses. There were other plants too, of course. Hydrangeas adored the shady borders and wrapped around ancient trees whereas Chrysanthemums, Sweat peas, Clematis, Honeysuckle, Wild Irises also made their seasonal displays. Little did I know the effort behind all this beauty.
The few years when I was not at boarding school, I witnessed my mother’s penchant for gardening and landscape design. The best part of this was her recycling skills. I remember coming home from school one day to find a new stumpery around a mango tree, complete with a wooden mama bear and its wooden cubs. It turned out she had asked the local gardeners to keep saving any stumps and let her know once a sizable collection was available. She then asked a local handyman to put together the stumpery for her – which apparently was an hour long job. Only if I had the photos to show you ! (These would be from at least 20 years ago, as I am ancient!
I was enjoying afterschool clubs with interior design themes and acting well into my teenage years. Gardening never seemed to tempt me..until I accidentally ended up renting a cottage in Ireland. It was a spur of the moment thing – we had just moved to Ireland, desperate for a house close to work. I actually wanted something without a garden since I did not want to commit to maintaining it given the nature of our jobs. However, fate had something else in store for us.
The rental property came complete with a beautiful stone patio, lawn with hedging and borders and a further seating space with rose bushes and a quaint little shed towards the end of the garden. The kitchen/diner space opened up neatly into the patio. That was probably the last straw. I gave in and started experimenting with various plants. Apart from identifying grass and a rose bush, I was completely unaware of the plants in the garden. The flower beds lay empty so I went on a bulb shopping spree buying exotics such as a Calla Lillies to easy favorites such as Tulips. I had no intention of growing from seed myself yet so decided to give the bulbs a go. Whilst they were overwintering, I bought a peace Lilly after googling ‘best indoor plants’ followed by some potted herbs from the local grocer. The herbs died within a week. The Peace Lilly died within a .. well, let’s just say it died sooner than anticipated. (I’m really not that terrible anymore, I promise!)
On hindsight, I don’t think they were actually dead – they just needed some TLC. But I was new to this obsession and with a new job along with a toddler to handle, it was probably not the best of times to have gotten into this thing called Gardening.
Some of the Lillies in the garden started to show signs of growth and I would check on them every day,before and after work, religiously. Sadly, we had to move again before I could see these babies flourish. Our next house with a (long but narrow, almost the size of a cricket pitch) garden was in the Southwest of England. Being a rental property, we weren’t allowed to make many changes to it. However, it had been designed beautifully by its owners. There was a huge rose bush that adorned the window by the breakfast table. Honeysuckle and Clematis hugged the boundaries and a small pond in the shade of various evergreen trees and shrubs sat in the center of the garden. A wooden bench positioned under apple trees provided gorgeous views of the whole garden where the flower beds on each side with their seasonal plants kept me in the garden most of my free time.
I did not get the chance to plant anything into the garden myself but grew dahlias, lupins, sweet peas, lavender, tulips, begonias and of course, more roses – all in planters. This was the beginning of true amateur gardening for me. I downloaded apps to help me identify plants already in the garden and how to take care of them (I’ll discuss these apps in a detailed post soon! Stay tuned!). I tried to fix the huge lawn with the help of my husband. We weeded out the garden, organically pest proofed the apple tree and tried to rescue as many plants as we could in this garden. Sadly, it had been neglected to the extreme when we moved into it.
Almost a year of fixing that garden with adding just a few pots of our own, we were forced to move again. This time, we are hoping it will be for good (fingers crossed!).
We moved to London. Getting a garden was not a pre-requisite but luckily, the house we wanted came with a garden. Or so we were told. It was an expanse of … soil. There were a few patches of grass and two broken beds made from old bricks with various weeds peeping up here and there. Nothing was growing yet since it was January.
A blank canvas, I said to my husband. How exciting, we said to ourselves.
A neglected blank canvas was what it turned out to be. Come spring, we were to find out what had been growing in this plot over the past few years. It not only broke our backs, it sometimes even broke our souls. Some very dodgy planting choices in this plot left me digging out most of the pre-existing plants and/or moving them within the garden or into containers to stop them from world domination.
Sounds dramatic coming from a very non-dramatic person. But I assure you, the horror stories of some of the plants that I found in this garden followed by the absolute joy its revival has brought me, will be nothing short of entertaining.
I’m not suggesting I’m the next Monty Don but if you’re into garden revivals, this blog will keep you entertained. I try to recycle and use DIY techniques as much as possible. Product reviews, starting plants from seeds, troubleshooting plants, indoor gardening, daily maintenance, monthly tasks for the garden, monthly garden reviews are just a few of the things in addition to the (garden transformation) journal I am about to write here. Welcome! I look forward to your reviews and comments!