22 November 2015

Victory Wrestled From Defeat

If we don't count the occasional introduction of garden centre plants there are only two times of the year I do some proper Gardeners Question Time type of gardening.  One in spring when young weeds are suddenly everywhere, and then now, in November, when the dead and dying need tidying away.

This season's visitation also involved the digging up of the 'what was I thinking?' plants.

These include the climbing rose with the vicious thorns and complete absence of flowers, the gloomy comfrey from when I was going to be a dedicated gardener, and the above blush-inducing tumescence. 

What is it? I have no idea. Maybe it's a vegetable, a kind of celery. Maybe it's a self-sown Triffid.

Whatever. It's gone into the green bin. Though I imagine there are some roots lurking deep in the soil who will make their presence felt next year.

The result of all this seasonal effort is bare soil and naked fences. And I don't know how to fill them. Is it acceptable to admit your garden has defeated you? If I had the money I would employ a professional garden designer to thrash it into submission, but the combination of my relative poverty and lack of horticultural knowledge means attempts to turn the garden into an oasis of refined coherence only seem to result in a melee of bullying and strangulation.

I am tempted to do my own rewilding experiment. If I step back entirely and let succession take its course perhaps a natural grace will develop. Flocks of birds will return, beavers will dam the ponds, and I'd howl with the wolves at night.

In reality, if you let a suburban garden develop at its own pace the climax community would less romantically involve brambles and nettles, and possibly a nest of rats. Super for biodiversity, but not so pleasing to gaze at while doing the washing up.

Yet, for all this angst, I did enjoy the work. It was cold, but I warmed up after chasing comfrey roots. The sky was a pearlescent grey. Starlings chatted in a distant tree. The hubby brought out steaming cups of tea. I even pricked a finger on the rose thorns which means I've now got a grubby plaster as a badge of gardening honour.

A thought spontaneously bubbled up that I would like Heaven to be a never-ending day of November gardening. Which is not to say I don't expect it to be warm and sunny, spent in pleasant indolence with 72 virgins at my beck and call (perhaps I'll give that last expectation some more thought). It's just that doing meaningful physical work outside at a time of year when there is so much to see and feel makes me happy. Not a champagne swigging, dancing on tables kind of happy, but a content happy.

Nature feeds the soul, however much your garden may sap it.