When I told my parents I would be writing for the Garlic & Sapphire blog they burst into laughter. And I don’t blame them. Two years ago I had no interest in gardening. I didn’t even enjoy stepping out there. Every time I needed something done I’d ask my gardening mad parents who would be only too happy to sort me out.
Then we moved to the countryside and bought chickens. And something in me changed.
When we moved into our new house twenty months ago the garden was completely green. There was grass all around the house with the occasional green shrub and further out nettles, docks and thistles. Some were taller than me. It took us the entire summer to get it into a manageable state. It was hard work but, surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The green that was left though was overwhelming. Our garden merged with the fields beyond and it looked vast. Then we had a very cold winter with bone rattling cold winds that would race over the flat grass and I decided enough was enough – we needed a windbreak. We needed to break up the green space. And there began my love affair with trees.
In addition to the windbreak I wanted to plant a small orchard for the chickens to peck about in. First though, I had to understand rootstocks and pollinating groups. This was a completely new vocabulary for me to grasp and made me slightly nervous.
But my desire to grow something beautiful overtook my lack of confidence. I got to grips with rootstocks thanks to the internet and various books I bought on the subject. We planted a small orchard with apple, plum, pear and damson trees.
Now I had got the planting bug. What’s next?
The more time I spent outside planting trees and tending to my chickens, the more inspired I became. My imagination started to kick in. I voluntarily watched gardening programmes, sent off for brochures and books and made more and more tree orders.
With buzzards and red kites regularly flying into and around the garden, you can’t help but be more fascinated by nature. I became aware and concerned about the lack of food for bees and the lack of nesting sites for wild birds. I also felt a little guilty for hacking down the thistles that the bees and butterflies would fly around. I needed to provide something for them in return. Something that we could both enjoy.
There is so much in the world I cannot practically do anything about. But this? This is something I can do in my own small way.
So I’m developing a plan. It is somewhat of a sketchy plan and might change, but it is something like this. I’m going to plant a hedgerow on our border and add trees with wildlife appeal. Wild cherry and wild crab apples are just two varieties of trees I can plant, which will also provide welcome colour. Inspired by Sarah Raven and Monty Don, and from a very small area I tried out last year, I also want to create a wildflower meadow at the bottom of the garden. I’ll start off small and grow it year by year. And along a small stream bank I’m going to plant willows, an early source of nectar for bees, along with bluebells and snowdrops.
It is a daunting task, for someone with only 20 months experience and limited confidence, but I’m incredibly excited. My order for snowdrops and bluebells in the green has been placed, and the wildflower seeds are next to me as I type.
It is going to be an exciting and colourful year with plenty of hard work. I can’t wait to get going.
Thanks for reading!