As I was gazing longingly and probably gormlessly at my neighbours roof terrace through my London window, I realised just how much I miss having a garden. We’ve tried to grow herbs in pots, sure, but there’s only so long you can keep a scrubby rosemary bush alive and I’m starting to think that my house mates and I are serial basil killers.
There’s nothing quite like having your own garden, that little piece of land you can stamp ‘mine’ and potter about in or just sit in, safe in the knowledge that this is your semi-secret sanctuary. I stayed at my parents’ house at the weekend and wandered around my childhood garden, breathing in the damp, early morning air tainted with dirt and softly rotting leaves as the dew-sodden grass gave way under my borrowed boots. Just as I was getting used to waking up to birdsong it was time to go back to being woken by barking urban foxes and the bin men, both of which make a lot of noise when they muck about with our recycling.
That’s not to say my parents’ garden is particularly special, or big, or pretty. There are far more manicured or well-kept gardens. Theirs has broken terracotta pots, half-dead herbs, lichen-covered statues and scratchy, cream and toffee-coloured gravel. It’s been landscaped twice and, over the years, has lost towering fir trees, gained swarms of birds (due in part the death of our cats and partly to the sudden abundance of bird seed draped on the apple tree) and had two ponds filled in, although I still remember crouching beside them before the herons ate the goldfish, sticking my hands in the mass of gloopy frog spawn and trying to adopt tadpoles.
Neither am I suggesting that my childhood home is idyllic or some sort of cathartic retreat, I love my parents but after hearing them argue about sprouts for a solid five minutes I’m ready to throttle them and escape back to the city. But, my room with its trunks of junk, the garden – where the last vestiges of winter are rotting into the emerging spring green, the rickety old shed, the moss-covered tree stump – they’re mine, sort of, and to me they’re beautiful.
Every time I come home there is something new. This time it was a pheasant who has escaped shooting season and decided our garden is the best place to hide out. He sat grumpily, scrunched up in a tree in the rain, squeaking reproachfully at me before I managed to snap him strutting about through the window.
Any suggestions for names would be greatly appreciated as he seems keen on hanging around!