I have fond memories of gardens. Both my grandmothers had greenfingers and our garden was full of tea roses that Dad would grow for Mum.

The back garden of my childhood home had a lawn that was often left to grow long. Our cats, their ears just visible, would leave trails like tiny tigers in the grass, leading to flattend nests. When I was about eight years old I was allowed a part of our garden as my own and I dug it over dutifully, but nothing would grow.  Looking back this was not surprising as my patch was about one foot by 4ft right up against the trunks of a row of leylandii. It was dry, shady and full of tree roots. On the edge of this area though I managed to make a rockery with the stones I had dug out and plants given to me by a kind neighbour. 

Eventually twigs and cuttings got dumped on my plot and that, you would think, was the end of that. However this heap was soon teeming with life, insects and a bumblebee nest which I regularly poked with a stick just to see what they were up to.

We lived on an estate near greenbelt oak woodland. No lordly landowner ever had a parkland like this to wander in.  In those days it was normal for children to roam unchecked all day if they wanted and I did, as long as they came back at dinner time fairly clean and with both wellies. I got to observe all sorts of habitats and species. I would come home and try to draw them or make homes for them. I was lucky again to have parents who indulged me with Observers books, paints and paper for birthdays and Christmasses.

The woodland I played in with its trees and wildlife has long since been built over and I have lived in many rented rooms and houses. But I never feel that a place is welcoming unless there is some space for nature and gardening - a pot on a balcony or the companionship of a tree through the window. At present ‘my’ garden is small and has views over farmland. Within its boundaries there is a microcosm: the drawings and paintings I make there represent to me feelings, events both personal and of the wider world outside. I am not a botanical illustrator but I do like natural shapes and lines. Each plant has its own personality changing throughout the year and often when I paint or draw these plants, the images take on my preoccupations.

When I plant in the soil it’s often a bittersweet experience. I know that when we leave this house the landlord will spray the garden with weedkiller and return it to a blank canvas for the next tennants. But I will take with me a hydrangea in a pot, a descendant of one bought by my Mum as a gift to my Nan. I will gather plants given to me by Dad and plants grown by my children when they were small from conkers and seeds. I will take their gifts of fallen feathers and nestless egg shells.

Now my children are grown they may not remember watching baby spiders huddle up around their mother as the sun goes down but respect for nature remains as part of who they are.

I hope I will have my own garden one day. Then I will plant out my pots. I will plant young trees, put down roots, let the grass grow long  and then I will be home.
Spring seedlings. Oil, pencil on board.

Before I mow the lawn. Pencil on board. 

Buddleia. Oil, pencil on canvas board. 

Dad’s Gladi. Oil, pencil on board. 

Seeds From Stolen Ground

In spring 2019, I was frequently visiting a large new housing development on the edge of the town where I live to take photographs and make recordings to try and make some art about what was happening. I would take, well, anything that looked like it was genuinely thrown away; so lots of building waste as well as litter. It was a dry summer, and fragments of plastic and polythene lay everywhere between vegetation that grew so fast it was like it knew this was its last chance.
        I was really quite disgusted at the way the land was being treated by the developers. Parish boundaries had been moved to circumnavigate objections from local people and a report that said no more housing was necessary, and now this bit of land belonged to another, smaller village at least a mile away, which better fitted requirements to build tightly-packed, substandard and over-priced houses.
        So I formulated a plan to save some of the land from being squashed beneath houses. Not much land, just enough for a relic. I didn't want to ask permission because I didn't want anything to do with the developers, and I'd got used to being an observer wandering the new pavements and staring at machinery, day-glo builders and piles of supplies. Though I didn't want to handle the ground via anything to do with the developers, as this would taint me too, I did think just turning up with a trowel and bag might raise a few eyebrows, so I wore my cycle hi-vis and helmet, and took a clipboard. That made me blend in well enough and nobody disturbed me while I knelt on the pavement and nicked several trowels worth of damp clay soil. I had no idea what would grow but I hoped some of the wild plants that had colonised the ground in its short burst of freedom would come again in my garden.
        This white clover is one of the plants that germinated. I still have a huge dock and there are two elder tree plants that have also survived that I don't quite know what to do with.
        The clover lived until last summer, 2021, when I mistakenly decided it had been cooped up in its pot for too long and planted it in the border. It got weeded out by another, which was well meant, but a rather tragic end and I will miss it this year.

The Soi/uls and the City

My garden is Coventry
It is shaped by multifaceted flows of matters
And energy unfolding their forces
To grow and feed the city’s souls

My garden is Coventry
A plot for pre-selected migrating seeds to sprout
Simultaneously a how it is and a what it’s not
Growing oscillations in-between silent
Night walk in commons and busy peak hours’ traffic
Before my eyes a shared garden cut unequally

Away from home,
A way to homesickness
A home to grow and rest
On the weeds of change
Four-leaf clovers
Escaping from Bayer’s
Chemical-sprayed (de)limited garden
Failing to provide a space for so many beings
To be, root, bloom, and grow safely

My garden is Coventry
Organised chaos fed by faceless nutrients
Power in-balancing
In my garden, Coventry
Every soul has a right to soil
No justice, no peace.