I have no real interest in gardening. I like the results – flowers, trees and vegetables – but I’m not one to be engrossed in the production of these. But I am cursed with a large garden that requires a large amount of attention. I cut the grass because if I didn’t, I would soon find it impossible to see the house or to see out of the windows. But that’s about it as far as gardening is concerned.
Recently, as part of a general improvement programme for the interior and exterior of my estate, I have been clearing the overgrown undergrowth (Wombling Free seems appropriate here) from the grounds. It started when my neighbour asked me if I could chop some of the forestry in the front down to enable them to see the sea. I was happy to oblige – it provided the motivation to do the work – and he helped me with the initial cutting as I didn’t have the time. I managed to take everything down to ground level. Then I started on the back garden. I managed to cut back a large strip of bushes, ferns and brambles over a weekend and I actually found it therapeutic as well as good exercise.
Now, apart from great piles of rotting vegetation awaiting disposal, I have a large cooking apple tree, some leftover potatoes from last year (I thought I’d dug them all up but there must have been a few remaining) and a rose bush. The apple tree is very productive and I regularly share the apples with anyone who wants them (applications on a post card etc). My potatoes last year were slightly larger than peas but there were enough of them to make a small Shepherd’s Pie. The rose, however, is beautiful. It’s a gorgeous, deep red colour and only produces one or two flowers a year. But I love looking at them. Last year it survived gales, rain and frost and although I do nothing to help it out, it thrives.
At the top of the garden is a tree my dad planted more than 30 years ago. It’s huge now, just like it should be. On the other side of the garden there are a large number of bamboo canes, easily 15ft high. I’m not sure where they came from but the neighbour behind my house has a large pigeon shed and it could be that they have grown from scattered seeds. Whatever the source, I have a small but authentic jungle corner there, complete with tigers and parrots.
Okay, not tigers and no parrots.
But occasionally I am graced by the presence of a fox in the back garden, usually in the mornings. I think she’s the same one as she has the same splendid bushy tail and white markings on her chest. The first time I saw her, she was curled up under a bush fast asleep. She passed through the garden several times and once she and I were no more than a few feet apart with the kitchen window between us.
Other visitors include a hedgehog that snuffled up to me while I was out with my telescope at night. I checked the internet to find out what food I could give it and it ended up dining on some dog food I had to hand. There are a myriad of cats that use my garden to pass through. Flocks of magpies used to congregate until I discouraged them with old CDs strung up on string that moved and flashed in the sun.
Earlier this year I watched a young starling being taught how to feed by its mother.
My garden may be unkempt but it makes for great viewing.