Gardens of the Mind
Today is a special day. There’s a day like this every year – usually some time in January – and it is a day I enjoy very much. It is the day I place my seed order for the 2007 growing season.
I have two gardens. One of them is the garden that I see when I look out of the window, or when I put my boots on and wander up the path looking for something to pick. At this time of year, it is a rather dismal scene out there. The kale plants are trying valiantly to produce new leaves faster than we can pick them, but with the days still short, the light still scarce and the cold, north wind blowing, it is a real struggle for them, and they are looking leaner and stragglier every day. Likewise the spinach, though it huddles closer together and closer to the ground than the kale, as though it is trying to keep warm. There is still quite a lot of rocket (arugula) that had not quite gotten around to bolting when the cold weather came and is still hanging in there, its leaves more peppery now than they were back in the summer.
Elsewhere, I see the bare stalks of plants long dead, some half fallen bean poles with the brown and withered remnants of stems still wound around them and the early signs of a new weed invasion. A shrivelled bean pod lies, black and mummified, in the middle of a patch of bare earth. The only colour in this garden besides green and brown and black is a bright splash of orange where a lone calendula plant is flowering, happily defiant against the frosty nights and the cold, drab days.
But the other garden – well I wish you could see it. It is a glorious, multicoloured slice of heaven, bright with flowers, rich with vegetables and fruit, neat and tidy and yet natural-looking and abundant, a veritable cornucopia of delight.
In that other garden, the roses don’t have black spot, there are virtually no weeds (except a few dendelions, which I like to put in salads) and of course there is no slug or snail within miles.This garden, unfortunately, only exists for a short time each year. And no-one else but me can see it. It comes into being on this special day in January, as I pore over the illustrations in the seed catalogues and carefully, with much thought, place my order. It lasts until about July, when reality finally sets in and I admit, once again, that reality can never match the vision.
This year, I say to myself, it will be different. This year, I will pull the weeds before they are big enough to strangle anything. This year, nothing will get out of hand. This year, all my seed will germinate, the slugs won’t destroy the bok choy, the mice won’t eat those precious and expensive (only four in a packet) cucumber seedlings, no containers or hanging baskets will dry out, the Brussells sprouts will actually have proper sprouts on them instead of miserable little things the size of peas and there will be flowers blooming absolutely everywhere. You wait. This year, I really will create that other garden. The one I dream about every January.