The Lockdown Garden by Wendy Scott
Winter has finally swept down upon us, though for how long ? – but rendering superfluous our earlier decision not to cut the grass again as the wind scythed the lawns. The garden is retreating for its long snooze, in shades of russet, ochre and brown. It changes every day and the birds become more visible, foraging for food among the dying leaves. Limits and renewals, as Kipling put it.
This time last year I looked back over a happy season, lots of people came to see the garden, and their company and their comments and sometimes their insights made that process both enjoyable and enriching. It inspired me to think of improvements, small changes, so that next year there would be a progress to be enjoyed. Instead, we had Covid, and the garden solitary.
I worked alone, without deadlines; the birds watched keenly and the cat made her privileged position most apparent (snoozing in my trug basket). Constrained by diktat and the firm concern of family, I hardly set foot outside my own green kingdom. Paradoxically, it was a time of freedom. One of the very few people to sit in the garden commented that it was a place for mindfulness. I actually wasn’t quite sure what that meant – is it one of those bywords which, briefly fashionable, will in due time fade away. For me, it meant peace, which came “dropping slow” and healing.
I took care to cut off the browned dead fronds of the ferns to let the new season’s growth emerge into light and air. Deadheading is something I do, but somehow never much for ferns. It was one of Monty’s tips in a spring edition of Gardeners World. I was most impressed by the way GW responded to the Covid emergency, aiming a lot of airtime towards those who had previously done little or no gardening - Adam Frost particularly sympatico – and emphasising the therapeutic value of being among plants and getting your hands dirty. One can pick and choose among the back numbers on BBC iPlayer, and there are few editions where I have not picked up some suggestion or idea. And what a treat too seeing the films sent in by viewers, just ordinary folk who get wellbeing from their gardens - an inspired idea.
So the new bits have bedded in, and once again at the cusp of the year the garden asks what is wanted and what is needed. Never in our lifetimes have decisions about next year’s planting needed to be taken in a time of such utter uncertainty. The primal instinct to plant for food is entirely right, given what they are saying about food shortages and Shetland’s position at the end of long supply lines. Though it is most welcome to see local suppliers producing excellent vegetables for sale in our island shop.
Growing food from seed will I think be the big story for next year, and swopping surpluses and herb cuttings a way forward. Does anyone have a bit of the sage with dark blue flowers ?