“I cultivate my garden, and my garden cultivates me.” Robert Breault
Since the imposition of the Covid Pandemic Lockdown, I have found myself drawn to the communal back garden on a daily basis. A verdant sanctuary and an escape from the stresses, pain and madness of the outside world; it has become my place of retreat, calm and nourishment.
A large rectangular volume is enclosed by four and five-storey blocks of Victorian sandstone tenements, that are in turn bisected by a stone wall and a magnificent Sycamore tree. This muscular giant dominates the space dramatically – its crown rising taller than the eaves of the buildings that surround it. And it is the tree that truly defines the boundary between the two shared back greens. Smaller trees cascade along the length of the dividing wall – birch, ornamental cherry, beech, apple, plum – shrubs, flowers and ground-cover tumbling gently to encircle the perimeter of the lawn.
The fruit trees and soft fruit bushes I planted a dozen years ago are well-established now. Mature and productive, each Springtime brings heavenly, aromatic blossoms and over the course of each Summer and throughout the bountiful Autumn we gather delicious produce: Bramley, Egremont Russet and James Grieve apples; Reine Claude greengages and Victoria plums; rhubarb; gooseberries; black, red and white currants. I enjoy the passage of the seasons through my relationship with Nature. There’s a symbiosis in the rhythm of composting, digging, planting, watering, coaxing, harvesting, pruning. And so to eat what you have laboured to grow is intensely satisfying and pleasurable.
Time spent working quietly in this urban garden allows me to observe Nature and to feel connected to a process of constant transformation and growth. I find myself constantly surprised and exhilarated by these changes and the erratic, joyous comings and goings of birds and their songs – blackbirds, great tits, swifts, bullfinches, the bees and other pollinators, and the endless and unexpected arrivals of self-seeded poppies and foxgloves. These glimpses of other lives lived are joyous gifts of distraction from the world outwith. I am fully engaged by the experience of being in the garden, absorbed in it and by it, nourished and invigorated. Happy and contented.