Gardens and the Best of Times

I recall images of digging old ground and discovering broken tobacco pipes from a gardening past. I recall weighty wheel barrow pushing, summer heat, compost building, summer scything and balancing high against deep, strong and resinous hedges.

Morning sunshine beams through a holly tree to a Cotswold drystone wall
Let the light in… ©️Gary Webb

There were gloriously clear sunsets that lit up solid rows of chiselled dry stone walling, softened only by Cotswold cushions of lush moss and dabs of lichen. And I remember a long winter of rain that, with its watery weight, dragged down foliage and seeped through boots and proofs and skin. Night after night damp jackets were dried in the hopes of a better tomorrow. But then things changed; there was a shift in location.

Towards the autumn I found myself taking turns around another horticultural playground with a very different outlook; not better or worse, just different, yet equally as beautiful as before.

Now I find that in these closing months of the year my daily vision has moved to see long flowery borders, formal walls, peacocks and metres of established hedging. Yew, thorn, hornbeam, beech, it’s a hedge playground and yes; they were each ready for their trim. One head-high section after another, sharp corners hither and dither, and curves to send me around in circles. If ever a garden was sent to test my trimming skills; this would be it.

Peacock heaven ©️ Gary Webb

This new outlook therefore is to new vistas, and a largely flat and wind kissed part of Northants. I guess that is why, a century ago, those hedges were deemed such a necessary feature for the garden’s success. Beyond the high boundaries though, exercising hooves echo along the lane, just as before, and beyond that numerous lofty trees and picturesque cottages break up the fields of view. To be sure, this year has seen more change than I expected, and certainly more than bargained for.

Yet, whilst I have been working steadily away in those gardens my mindful cogs have continued to whir. As is the nature of the job, there are many moments when you find yourself deep in thought, and of course I’ve spent many a minute considering where, when and how so much change has come about.

There have been moments when I’ve reflected on my journey and asked myself why I was at a place, any place, at any given point in the past – considering the alternative places my boots could have taken me. Indeed I’ve pondered if I will ever know where the place I am at any point, will be the right place. I haven’t dwelled of course, time’s too short for that, but I guess you could say that I’ve processed the what, why and wherefore, whilst potting and pruning and preening, but always – whilst getting the present job done.

Keep calm and carry on gardening
Don’t worry, be happy – in the garden… ©️Gary Webb

Across this last year though, indeed across the last twenty or more, there’s one thing that I’ve come to realise that has always been a constant for me, and that has been the opportunities I’ve had to spend time in all those gardens. Whether it’s been time at work, or time spent visiting a good few places, it’s safe to say I’ve enjoyed a good few hours amongst the flowers.

Across the pond at Edinburgh Botanical Garden
Time spent with plants – never wasted! Here at Edinburgh Botanics ©️Gary Webb

Gardens, amidst tedious or unpalatable moments of strife, offer respite. Gardens can, in a most sorrowful time of hardship or pain, respond with moments that often capture first your eyes, then your mind and heart. They can, and I know through experience, smooth the curve of the sharpest bend that life puts before us, and at any given moment, can remind you that you’re in the most perfect spot on earth.

It should go without saying, that gardens also offer spaces to spend the best of times. Walks hand in hand, little ones picking flowers, bigger ones climbing trees. Stolen moments on a bench with a view, picking a currant from a bush or rolling down a grassy bank. Golden garden moments are many and varied, and will always be there for the taking – so just make sure you do!

The Keep garden at Dunster Castle in Somerset
Fresh flowers, fresh air, & fresh legs at Dunster Castle ©️Gary Webb

So when I look back, whether I’m walking at pace behind a mower, tucked up in a toasty office to create a planting plan, on my knees in the rain whilst digging a tree planting pit, or chasing my kids along a garden’s winding path – it has always been the best of times.

To gardens therefore, and all that they offer I dedicate this post. A simple and somewhat measly gesture I know, but I want to record, celebrate and remember how, throughout my life gardens have comforted, refreshed, nurtured, repaired and inspired me. Whether through work or recreation, many of my fondest memories have been in gardens – I have experienced many and hopefully there’ll be many more to come.

Ultimately I guess, I don’t know where my Gardening Ways will take me, but I know that wherever it is, it’ll be the right place, at the right time.

Here’s to Gardens!

Until next time, do you believe in the power of gardens?

Regards, Gary Webb

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