Grow Dome

Gayla Trail over at You Grow Girl has been blogging recently about an illness that has kept her from gardening this year, and how that makes her feel, and as a result she has rebooted her Grow Write Guild series of writing prompts by asking gardeners to write about a time when they were unable to garden, for whatever reason.

The story of how I started gardening is well documented (I wrote about it in The Alternative Garden: An A to Z, and from 2007 I talked about my progress on The Alternative Kitchen Garden podcast). It started in 2001 when I moved into my first house, with the man who would soon become my husband. If you’re a relatively new reader on my blog, you may not know what happened next.

My former garden

At the beginning of 2012, my husband decided he was leaving. As we attempted to uncouple our lives whilst remaining civil, it became apparent that the end of that process would mean the sale of the house, and therefore of the garden. In the end it was that loss that undid me, and I couldn’t step outside without crying. I had been in the middle of a redesign for the new season, and I was expected to make the garden presentable for potential buyers. I couldn’t; it was too painful.

In fact, it would be another 18 months or so before the house was sold, and for all of that time the garden and I were in limbo.

After that, I moved into a flat. I had an allotment, which was intended to be an outlet for my green fingers. But it was more a repository for the plants I could not bear to leave behind, which were waiting for a new permanent home. It was more like a refugee camp for plants. As it had been neglected, and was rapidly returning to a wild state, keeping it was more of a burden I had to carry rather than any kind of joy. Most of the time I couldn’t face going there.

Bushwhacked allotment

And so for three years I was a gardener who couldn’t garden, but who wasn’t free of the guilt of a neglected patch. The worst of both worlds, perhaps. By the time Ryan and I moved into this house a year ago, I (like Gayla) was practically howling in frustration. All I wanted to do was have somewhere to play with my plants.

Lavender shed

My new plot is still a work in progress – we started it in the spring, and for most of this year I have been weighed down with work stress. Ryan entices me outside whenever he can, and swears I am happier when I have been pottering for an hour or so. I can still see the work that needs to be done, and the refugee plants that need to be permanently planted, more than I can see the joy. When weeks go past, and plants keel over from neglect, I feel it very keenly. I have a backlog of three years of plant hopes and dreams, of new things I want to try. I have to remind myself that I am only human.

Ryan would never ask me, as my ex once did, whether I could be happy without a garden. My love of plants, and gardening, has become one of the defining features of my life.

The weather forecast is not good today, but for all of these reasons and more I’m going to try and make it outside, to do something in the garden. To return to my true nature, and become a gardener once more.

Dahlia flower