“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space – a place not just set apart but reverberant – and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education
For fourteen years, I lived in Durban. My flat looked out at the most stunning view of the beautiful green racecourse, the city of Durban and miles of enchanting blue, green and silver sea.
But it didn’t have a garden.
Inside my flat I tried to create my own ‘garden’. I had beautiful trees and numerous pot plants that flourished within the confines of my flat. When I decided to move to George, Mums assured me that there would be no room for trees in my apartment. I was loathe to get rid of those beautiful creatures so down to George they came.
I moved to an apartment with a communal garden. Dogs weren’t allowed but – I am deaf. So I was granted special dispensation. Enter Perdita, my wire haired dachshund! I can’t tell you how much safer I feel with Perdita. She lets me know the instant someone is around. Her joy at seeing George, our gardener, overflows in this madly welcoming bark. Strangers on the other hand are given a much fiercer welcome, as far as that is possible when you are so endearing! I erected this sweet wooden fence, about knee high, to keep Perdita safe. It has encapsulated my own private piece of land.
I decided to convert Perdita’s fenced off area into a garden! Unfortunately it fell within the shade of this gorgeous Oak tree. Therefore I was not able to have heaps of flowering plants as I wished. So Mums, Dad and I planted things that grew in the shade – Arum Lily’s , Hydrangeas and a mass of Agapanthus. And my Durban trees settled quite contentedly into my garden casting their heads up towards the magnificent mountains.
My garden has been growing beautifully, prospering and flourishing in every direction. Green, green and more green! But I never thought of planning it in any way. I couldn’t walk in it as I was bound to damage something. It grew in this ramshackle, disorganised manner.
“The need for change bulldozed a road down the centre of my mind. ”
I often go round to my friend, Jans, in the mornings to fill myself with delicious coffee and wonderful biscuits. Recently she started work on her garden. Beautiful beds with the most entrancing plants are raising their heads in this new, interesting environment.
“Would you please help me reorganise and plan my garden, Jans? Then I can get George, our gardener, to help and we will be able to create some order amongst my green chaos?”
“Your input would be great, G, but George and I will do the tough stuff! You can direct. You’re good at that!”
I acquiesced readily!
Jans inspected my garden. “It could be lovely, G. At the Outeniqua Market on Saturday, we will buy some new plants that grow in the shade. There is a lot that needs to be pulled out and rearranged. George and I will get to work on Monday.”
I bought two white Begonias, a mass of these exquisitely pink, green and white leafed plants, Hypoestea, I prefer their other name: Freckle Faced Plants! Doesn’t that sound so characterful? I also bought a gorgeous tree that will grow in the corner, outside my bedroom window. It has white flowers that are ringed in a soft gentle pink. However my favourite are two beautiful ‘cabbage’ leafed plants in this striking crimson, lighter red and lime green, Coleus. They seem to radiate a kind of joy in this miniature garden of mine.
Monday dawned in a perfect gardening manner. George arrived with his wheelbarrow in tow, smiling broadly. Jan brushed her hands together as she surveyed the green mass before her. She had the same look on her face that she has before she cleans her kitchen floor: There is going to be no fooling with me. I am going to get you neat, tidy and organised.
And so the work in my garden began.
Jans was rummaging around near my drain, removing a whole lot of gruck when all of a sudden she gave a shout: “Holy Moses, look what I’ve found!”
She held in her hands the most beautiful little rock that looked as if it’s middle had been gently scooped out by God. “G, we have just found you the most wonderful bird bath!”
That bird bath now sits in pride of place at the entrance to my garden.
My friend, B and I were instructed to shoot off to buy paving stones and pebbles . We returned to a much changed garden. George’s wheelbarrow was full and my garden seemed to have an order and at the same time a lusciousness to it. Jans aligned my paving stones and pebbles to suit my unique gait. We then decided where I wanted to place my new cherished foliage. I am the sort of person that speaks to her plants:
“How would you like to grow here? I think this would suit you. You can show of your technicolored coat for all to see!”
“I would love it if you grew outside my bedroom window. In the mornings when I lie sipping coffee, my eyes will fall on you and your beautiful foliage. It would make my day start with a smile!”
Jans and George stood back a couple of hours later and surveyed their handiwork. And grinned.
I had a garden, a beautiful, colourful enchanting garden that I could stroll around each day with my watering can in hand and delight in my heart.
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
Making a garden is a bit like life.
You can’t have ‘foliage’ growing in every which way. You must throw out and discard what is needless. You have to have some sort of order in your life, in your relationships. There are new people that enter your life. They might be showy and outgoing. It is underneath “in their soil” that one discovers their vulnerability that calls for tender attention.
I look at my new garden with tremendous pride and delight. Jan and George showed me what goes into making a garden – love!
“Love life. Engage in it. Give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.”