The other day I was talking to a neighbour who had just moved in and who had found herself with a garden for the first time in her life. She’d gone to the shops and bought some sunflower seeds and wanted to know what to do with them. How is it possible that these little black specks grow up to be vibrant yellow flowers? A little compost, a little water, lots of sun and a sprinkle of magic. And then tiny sprouts unfurl, stretching leaves and stems to the sun. It is pure alchemy.
I planted a shop bought ginger root in early Spring and watched with baited breath until I saw the tiny stem ginger emerging. It is difficult to buy fresh stem ginger and now I have a stock, but also I find it incredible that this inert root was just sleeping, waiting for a chance to grow. I did the same with bell pepper seeds and now have 10 pepper plants. Childish joy at successfully channeling Magic like an apprentice witch.
The garden turns with the seasons. It retreats at winter, bursts into new life in Spring, is filled with the slow lazy heat of Summer, and crashes out with the swan song of an ageing ballerina. It teaches me patience like nothing else, and planning for the future: you can’t have daffodils in Spring without planting bulbs in Autumn. It teaches that life is not linear but cyclical, that everything is connected including me. I am tending a home for a myriad of animals that pass through and live with me in companiable buzzing and twittering. I am eating the food I grow and composting the remains to return to the soil.
And memories… There are so many plants that remind me of those that have gone. I grow foxgloves and sweet peas and camomile because they remind me of my mum. Every year I grow the marigolds that I was sent from a nun over twenty five years ago. She died many years ago but the flowers still bloom and remind me; my granny’s rose, my grandpa’s grape vine, my mum’s Pinks. In my head, those that have died are just beyond the wall, sitting in a beautiful garden in the early morning sun, while birds sing and insects chatter and time ceases to matter.