Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Small green shoots

Spring romps through the garden. After weeks of rain, today it is abruptly warm. The crabapple is heavy with pink blossom; the air heady with scent. The wind tosses white pear petals about. Ripening almonds bob on whippy branches just outside the study window. Lime green fig leaves look apple crisp against a neighbouring red brick wall. The rainbow chard has gone to seed, and the stems tower six and seven feet high, dancing and swaying in the breeze. A geranium spent the winter quietly climbing up a fence; now bright pink flowers wink at eye level. Lettuces burst out of planter boxes; potatoes fill the trench; the first three artichokes are forming on the silvery thistle.

Through the trees, you can glimpse the hammock suspended between a sheoak and a gum. Wander past the little apples and sink into it. Or flop onto the trampoline, rest a while, and look at the plum flowers above you. They flutter white against the bright blue sky.

After a summer struggling to keep all alive; after an autumn of replanting and teaching the soil to absorb water again; after a winter of bare branches and slow growth - here is life. The garden is in full swing.

And for once I don't see the weeds, the builder's rubble, and all we've failed to do. I don't see the ugly fence, or the ground under the crabapple waiting to be turned over, cleaned and planted. Instead, I see what is good. And what is good is very good indeed. Heaven on earth, right here in our backyard.

It fills me with awe. We're no great gardeners. I just read books and say, what if? And to my amazement, a collection of what ifs has become a sunny spot to chat, a shady place to read, a hammock to swing in, a pink salvia luring you round a bend in the path. It's a daisy saying hello, and the scent of violets following you as you wheel your bicycle past. It's white flowers glowing along the path at night, and bright flowers for children to pick. It's lavender under the washing line, mint in an old bathtub, and creepers up the fence. It's rambly and shady and overgrown and romantic.

And the more we do, the more I can imagine. There may be a pile of plaster buried under the weeds around the crabapple, but I imagine purple salvia spikes thrusting up through the lower branches. The neighbour's brick wall radiates heat, but I can see an olive tree holding the space, its silver leaves creating dappled light. The trampoline sits on a patch of raggedy weeds; but violets are spreading in its shade and one day every bounce will be sweetly scented.

Our garden has felt like a wasteland, covered in builder's rubble, exposed when next door was a construction site, and dried out by years of water restrictions and little rain. When we renovated, we ripped out old sheds and demolished a back room to increase its size - but the dirt was so sour it wouldn't take water, wouldn't take a plant. Cow manure and compost, and a year or two, and finally the soil is becoming fertile. Things are beginning to grow. And every now and then, I notice the shift that has taken place and my heart leaps.

A fragment of heaven slipped into my garden. I see, and I celebrate. And still more green shoots point the way ahead, and hint of further beauty yet.

(For a chat about garden books, click here.)

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