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  • Garden gladness (Weekly Blog, 21 April 2019)

    Posted on April 21, 2019
    A blog by Catherine Leonard, Secretary-General

    What a weekend!  It has been gloriously sunny for the whole, long Easter weekend.  And I have been reconnecting with my garden.

    Glorious garden

    When I came back to live in my childhood home eight years ago, I gloried in the garden.  I was desperate to get down in the dirt and somehow back to my roots (quite literally!).  In France, I had tried growing things but the seasons and altitude were so unfamiliar. Covered with snow for nearly half the year, our garden had a short productive spell.  And yet it was so warm and sunny.  My tomatoes grew well, but never ripened.  Other attempts were eaten by sheep, driven into the mountains by the ancient practice of transhumance. Or simply died of neglect when we boarded up the chalet for weeks on end.

    Gearing up for some gardening!

    First attempts

    Back home in England, I remember planting all sorts of seeds of my father’s which I found in the house and shed.  And hoping that he would have been proud of how I looked after his greenhouse and vegetable patch.  I even relished the compost heap in a bizarre way.  That the rich earth created there had been laid down as vegetable scraps and grass clippings by my dear Dad.

    Gardening fed my body and soul.   But then, time marched on.  A tree fell on the greenhouse and completely destroyed it.   The deer and weeds invaded.  Moreover I became busier with work and family life.   Finally, last year I didn’t grow anything in the vegetable patch expecting, ironically to be in France for much of the summer.  (I did have tomatoes and cucumbers in my lean-to greenhouse however.  This is the one my father carefully deconstructed from my Granny’s garden when she died.  Divided in half, then rebuilt as a long, traditional glasshouse against a shed wall.  It has brick and flint footings, a brick floor and a cistern made from an old oil tank.  Now furnished with a couple of old family tables, it is a constant reminder of my Dad.  And needless to say, it’s a place that makes me very happy.)

    Horticultural hero

    Thus the previously productive vegetable garden became overgrown.  A bit of an eyesore really with cloches still standing precariously guard over bunches of weeds.   Wigwams of beanpoles punctuating the skyline.

    Fortunately, my parents-in-law came to stay while I was in Bermuda to help with the children and indeed the garden.  My father-in-law heroically weeded, dug and dressed (with the precious aforementioned compost!) the vegetable patch.  Not the enormous section my father (and I – to begin with) had managed but half, at least.   With that in mind, I ordered seeds and began growing a few indoors.   Courgettes, lots of different tomatoes, chilli peppers, cucumbers, aubergines.

    Apple blossom in our orchard



    All of which leads me to the surprisingly warm Easter weekend.  The seeds I had started outdoors on return from Bermuda were sprouting.   Broad beans, radishes, lettuce and kale.  Also the beans and peas my father-in-law had sown in the greenhouse.  In a moment of inspiration (or madness), I decided to convert a garden bed near the house into a potager.  I’ve always loved the idea of beautiful and useful.  A productive mix of vegetables and flowers.  Furthermore, digging up the existing plants, then adding wheelbarrows of compost and top soil was great exercise!   I was on my feet all day, all weekend and slept soundly and happily.

    Thus I fell back in love with our garden.  I hope the deer, weeds, frosts and slugs play fair and allow me to keep enjoying it!

    Thanks for reading – you can read an earlier blog about gardens within the INTO network here.

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