One of the great pleasures of the gardener is in knowing that even when he or she is not busy weeding and watering and cultivating the garden, the garden goes on being the garden; that even on those occasions when the necessary activities of daily living get in the way of your gardening plans, the vegetable patch will continue to do what it does best, and continue to be the vegetable patch.
In the gardener’s absence the garden remains. The sun and the wind and the rain of those days when the gardener is in absentia continue nature’s innate pastoral care that the most experienced gardener, often times, takes for granted.
Another of the gardener’s great pleasures is in receiving those wonderful free gifts that only the garden can give: self seeded Lupins ‘neath the rose bushes; red orachs germinating next to the lemon balm and mint; purple tansy, rape and clover all showing in flower at the same time and each one a hive of activity with passing honey bees and bumblebees, and self-seeded thyme and marjoram seedlings sheltering in the cover of prostrate rosemary. More grows than the gardener sows and at this time of year a keen eye will help in reaping some of the garden’s unexpected rewards.
But perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of the garden is in simply beholding it: another and altogether more honest gardener than I taught me this. Gardening can be, if so desired, a constant round of frenetic seasonal activity, a continual trolling through lists of what to do on any given day of the year. But sometimes it’s good to take time-out and to simply sit in your garden or on your plot and to look and see, and to listen and hear: to gaze across your lawn or along the herbaceous perennials and rose border; to gauge the clambering clematis or your favoured rambling rose; to sit on your allotment and watch as bees make their buzzing route to your peas and beans and rape and tansy; to catch a glimpse of a furtive song thrush rummaging in the bark mulch, or to listen to blackbirds and robins perched on the handles of your upturned summer redundant wheelbarrow, almost exhorting you to dig up a drill right there and then in the hope of gifting them an easy lunch.
There is a great satisfaction in working and preparing the soil each autumn and spring, and in then sowing seed and watching the seasons make it respond to their will and whim, and a seasonal contentment in watching the pods swell on beans you’d sown only 12 weeks previous, just as there is a feeling of good fortune and delight in watching your strawberries crowns blossom and your red and green gooseberries set fruit.
There is a great sense of achievement in sowing your onion seed in January and bringing them to crop in August, just as there is a sense of personal pride in managing to get the year’s first sowing of parsnip seed to germinate, early. But don’t neglect the pleasure of simply enjoying your garden or allotment for its own sake. The garden will always be there, just as the allotment forever lurks in the shadow of your effort and toil, even when you are not physically present.
In the gardener’s absence the garden remains, and we should not forget the simple pleasure of enjoying it for its own sake occasionally.