There are times when, looking out over my garden, I do wonder if it really is worth all the work that goes into it.
Yes, when I am relaxing on the patio on a pleasant afternoon … I wish! … admiring the fruits of our labours and contemplating the beauty and bewildering variety of plant life, I can overlook the hard graft that made this possible. But when I am gazing forlornly at my grass … and regular readers know that I have a stretch of grass in front of my house and a drying green to the rear, with nothing resembling a lawn anywhere … I do sometimes wonder dejectedly why I have spent another summer vainly trying to eradicate the mosses and common lawn weeds, vainly striving to improve the quality and quantity of the grass and vainly attempting to make the front grass assume some slight resemblance to a lawn.
At such times, I am wont to contemplate the ravages of the years, to wonder whether I should employ a suitable contractor to dig up all the existing grass and refurbish the front and back areas completely with new, quality turf. I look, too, at a couple of trees which are now fully forty years old … not, I know, old by the standards of many species of tree … and, frankly, well past the prime time of their particular species; and I think that I really must get a tree surgeon in to remove them. And I contemplate the rather overgrown, unkempt and shapeless forms which some of my forty-plus-year-old shrubs have adopted, despite my best efforts to maintain them.
Then, in a bid to cheer myself up, I visit an area of my garden which cannot be seen from the house and which, this year, was the beneficiary of my gardening guru’s principle of regarding the garden as being like a house, made up of separate but interlinked rooms, one of which should be completely redecorated every year, much … even all … of the existing planting removed and a new planting scheme devised and implemented. Here the ground is carpeted with still-attractive pine bark; the shrubs are young and shapely; the nearby fence is recently-painted; and the whole ‘room’ is vibrant and exciting. Heartened, I return to some of the other ‘rooms’, speculating on which one Alison … our guru … will identify as most in need of redecoration next year. Will it be this area to the east of the house, or that to the south? Might she suggest that the present grass has outlived its usefulness and should be dug up and discarded in favour of young turf? Will she choose to remove these shrubs or those shrubs? And what plantings might she suggest? - for I bow to her store of horticultural wisdom, acquired by many years of skilled tuition and hard graft.
But harsh reality rears its ugly head. I am a year older than I was at this time last year, a year less supple, a year achier. My muscles have not their one-time strength or my back its former ability to bend and straighten innumerable times in a single afternoon. Nor is my will to work well beyond the limits of pleasure as determined as it once was. It will be just a shade harder for me to maintain my garden next year: but I am not yet ready to give in and rely on the services of a by-the-hour jobbing gardener … although there has to be a distinct possibility that, by the time the spring arrives, I may have reconsidered this stance, even if it is to do no more than bring a gardener in to undertake some of the hardest tasks. For the terrible truth has dawned; even as I consider the removal and replacement of some plants which have been my friends in the garden for many years, primarily on the grounds of their age and loss of attractiveness, there is one living presence whose replacement I have not considered; the oldest living thing in my garden is … me! Now there’s a sobering thought.