Dear Readers, some gardens are grand. Some are charming. But some acquire something even better – character. I love the garden of my Aunt Hilary because it speaks to me of the love that she and her sister Morwenna have put into it over nearly 50 years. It includes just the right combination of plants that are managed, and plants that have been allowed to naturalise and roam free, such as the primroses above, which pop up in every colour from cream to palest pink to rose to cerise.
The controlled anarchy of it all, with flowers bursting forth in the lawn, by the stumps of trees, in every corner, seems almost paradisaical to me. If Adam and Eve walked on this primrose-studded lawn I’m sure they’d think themselves lucky.
A sparrowhawk flies in over my head, long and low, for the second time in two days. She catches nothing, and swerves away, but the sparrows set up an anxious chirruping, as if discussing what has happened. In a few minutes, one is back on the roof of the old garage, which itself has a fine patina of age. The variety of lichens and mosses, here in this area of clean air, is impressive.
I wander over to the vegetable garden, and notice these two sparrows huddled against one another. I know we’re not supposed to anthropomorphise, but they look like friends to me. Could they be recently fledged nest-mates, I wonder? Surely it’s too early? But then, Broadway has a lot of long-established hedgerows which provide just the conditions that these birds need – food, shelter, and lots of thorns to keep the sparrowhawks out.
When I look at a garden like this, it makes me wonder how many iterations it has gone through, how many plants have been tried and rejected because they aren’t happy in the conditions. There’s a lesson here about when to give up and try something new, when to persevere, when to intervene and when to let well enough alone. A garden can teach us many things, if we let it, and if we recognise that, in the end, we can either work with nature or against her. After almost fifty years this garden is still evolving, but is full of ‘happy accidents’ that have been allowed to multiply. Imagine how much poorer the garden would be if the first errant primrose had been dug out, instead of appreciated.
Nature touches the most unlikely things with beauty, like the roof of this bird table. I love the different textures and colours of the lichens, the way the one on the right looks as if some sea monsters are rising up and wading through the shallows. The one in the middle is as crumbly as birch bark. The lichen towards the top of the roof reminds me of the surface of a sphagnum bog. All of this is happening here on this few square inches of wood. There is so much abundance here, so much possibility. It’s hard to spend time in nature without being touched by joy.