The Wilderness Years


With my fingers enveloping a mug of Earl Grey, I shut my eyes for a moment while the first rays of a burgeoning spring sun warm my face delivering, if the news is to believed, a much needed dose of vitamin D.

The garden bench was slightly damp but no matter, my mind ran through a plethora of images of my perfect garden: from the tall purple alliums caressed by golden fennel, to deep aubergine coloured acers, sun-worshiping olive trees and pots full with tumbling ivies, lavenders and scented herbs.

The wind blew up while a ferocious looking cloud smothered the sun and I was abruptly dumped back into my horticultural horror. The garden- if one can call it that- has what I believe is known as a skeleton; curved low walls, a small raised terrace, various vintage, (made last month and allowed to rust), obelisks and a profusion of strategically placed pots. Then there’s the brown stuff – soil – though mine has more similarities to builder’s rubble than the luxurious loam of an herbaceous border. Yet this patch of poor old sod is nothing short of living history. When the Pagan Pup turns archeologist, as he is apt to do, he unearths all manner of Pagan relics,
“So that’s where my trowel got to”.
And many a family BBQ has been interrupted by a mud and worm encrusted Thomas the Tank Engine toy being tossed into someone’s lap.

“Hey Mum, I’ve been looking for that!”
“What since you were five? You’re fourteen now!”

Who would have thought the barren winter branches of a forsythia hedge could look so attractive with various tennis, golf and footballs rammed into its thicket?

The early spring chill drove me indoors where the vista from the window was somewhat disappointing. Yes, I have a wooden obelisk painted in sage green, but the ball was knocked from the top by the ace thwack of a tennis racket rendering it yet another broken plaything.

My garden does have architectural plants – lateral spreading junipers, cypress, climbing vines and honeysuckle, but the only real sign of fresh spring was some tulips in an urn, struggling to make their presence felt in amongst something dead, last year’s attempt at under-planting…

“Come on, Sandra, cheer up. It’s not that bad, you’ll soon knock it into shape”.

And there you have it. I have three burly men in the house who all view the garden as a place for beer induced snoozing or, in the case of Star II, a place to practice tennis,
“Ooops sorry could I have my ball back please.”

None of them are about to knock anything into shape. No, tending to our wilderness over the years has fallen to me, but now I’ve got this back/ knee/ hip you see, so no more digging or sweeping for me. A decision had to be reached- gardener or chiropractor? Easy, gardener.

Ben the talented and tolerant happy horticulturalist now comes and tends to my wilderness, all I have to do is text saying my spikey bush needs sorting and he’s there.

We have a special understanding; he doesn’t use the correct Latin terminology with me, as he knows it’s pointless. Instead when I say I’d like something large and purple growing up the shed he simply asks if I want the yellow flowers, (weeds, I think), taken out first.

Then all that’s left to do is to nod wisely while he tells me what he’s going to do this month and the next. Then it’s off to our local emporium of all things green and flowery to purchase a purple thing.

The years of wilderness have been nipped in the bud!

Sandra Pagan