Nobody could have predicted how 2020 would unfold, the Covid-19 virus throwing the world into a state of flux and leaving us feeling like the rug has been pulled from underneath us.
For those of us fortunate enough to have a garden, this is exactly that place. Nature is oblivious to the lockdown - birds are nesting, leaves unfurling and blossom blooming - which is immensely reassuring when everything else is out of kilter. A good tip if you find yourself awake at 5am is to open your bedroom window so you can listen to the dawn chorus. Even if you only have a few trees nearby you should be able to hear blackbirds, song thrushes and robins singing – the perfect antidote to an anxious mind.
Horticultural therapy is gradually gaining ground as a concept within the health profession, but it’s something gardeners have always known and understood – that the act of nurturing plants not only makes somewhere look pretty, but it can also heal both body and mind. So over the coming months our gardens are going to become even more important places.
This time last year our new garden was in the process of being transformed. There was a mini digger, skips, piles of rubble and our hardworking builder and joiner. Being able to look out onto the space now, where bulbs are nodding in the breeze and perennials are shooting towards the sky, is a joy and a privilege.
This year my garden won’t have to compete with me sneaking off to visit other gardens, there won’t be trips to the seaside or even a holiday, where the garden is left to fend for itself. This year my garden will have my full attention. I’ve already decided to grow more vegetables and some fruit. We won’t be self-sufficient in everything, but we shouldn’t need to buy herbs or salad until autumn.
My husband will often find me disappearing into my greenhouse. This year’s garden project was meant to be the conversion of the shed into a proper potting shed with a window and a potting bench. Those plans have been put on hold, and for now my greenhouse, window sills and the dining room floor in front of some large windows have become the home to a growing number of seed trays and pots. The sweet peas are nearly ready to plant out and I’ve just sown some containers with night-scented stock, which will fill the air on warm summer nights with their heady perfume. And for later in the summer, when hopefully a sense of normality has returned, there’ll be the jewel-like flowers of dahlias.
But for now I don’t want to think that far ahead. Spring so often feels like it disappears in a flash. Well, maybe this is the year I have a bit more time to appreciate it all, such as the blue tits that have taken up residence in the nest box in the birch tree. And maybe I’ll finally master successional sowing!
Written by Louise Curley