Times I am asked what I miss most about my past life, in another country, in another place. There is so much, so much, but what I do miss most, is my garden. True, a garden is the window to the soul, and I remember so clearly, in the early morn, at sunset, being in my garden and feeling utter peace. Contentment. Serenity. A good day’s work tending her, done. And their prettiness shone at dawn and at dusk, offering her gifts without prejudice.
As a young bride, my first garden was a flat, dusty piece of land. We had built and all around was, nothing. I did not know what topsoil meant, where to begin, only that I wanted a garden as beautiful as the one my mother had created with beds of daffodils, trees of plums, banksias stripped for confetti. Her garden was her masterpiece and I would hanker for the same.
When we sold our first home the lady that bought it saying ‘I love this house for the garden’ and I knew it was true. We had created a haven of Icebergs, of Duftwolke reds, mulberry trees and boxed hedges. Christmas trees planted in the new year, now thriving in the copse beside the birches. My second garden was my work of art for I was older, more experienced, part of the garden club, chairwomen of the Rose society. I choose carefully, planted methodically, nurtured cherry blossoms, frangipani’s, Julia roses. Liquid ambers and dogwoods heralded the seasons. By then I had found my trusted companion, Thole, who had a passion for begonias.
As I grew, so did my gardens. Trips to England meant trips to all the great gardens she cosseted on this tiny island. So great was my fervour that I drank in the designs of Hidcote, Sissinghurst, Great Dixter, Pashley, so many that my map of England was the map of her gardens. The frustration of returning home and demanding to find a Silver Pear Tree at the local nursery, pebbledash and peonies was tantamount to despair, but I, unhindered, whispered to my David Austen roses and breathed in them the will to live in the heat of Africa.
My last garden in Africa was one inherited. Full of tiered steps, raised beds and enough old roses that I had not choice but to give them release. The foundations I cherished, for once not beginning from scratch, but adding to a legacy left. I loved that garden more I think because I was continuing the guardianship of a life lived loving it. To it I added a fountain and the evenings spent listening to the water dance, the setting of the sun over the leopard trees, upon the ivy around the clivias and Joseph’s lillies, it was my place of peace.
There is an irony to the new life in England, surround by all the gardens I used to visit and no garden of my own. For the past eight years all I had on my balcony was a crab apple that bless her, tried and finally said, this is too sad, even for me. She did good though and I thank her.
So, the love of a garden. I have never been happier than in one. Being able to create one. For now, I go to the glorious gardens and parks nearby to feed my soul. Kew, Ham, Regent’s … I come now to revel and make you my garden. Watch you change your seasons and be imbued by your loveliness.
The plan is to one day, find my garden again. If it is on a balcony, or on another continent, it does not matter, for my love for a garden will be the place I want to sit on a deck chair, with coffee or wine, and just know, I have found a little of God.
Images telegraph, mary keen, sissinghurst