How does your garden grow?
How does your garden grow?
As a child, I was never taught to garden, nor did I witness my parents gardening much. The most gardening work I did was picking up dead leaves in the winter, which felt like a punishment to both my brother and I. But I loved our Toulouse garden, I knew every corner, every hiding place.
In 2006, I moved to London and met a man called Paul who would become my husband. Paul didn’t garden either, but he had an innate curiosity to grow things. Before long, we were living together in a shared house and he took on the project of growing vegetables in pots on the rooftop. This gave birth to strange-looking vegetables: some colourless square carrots and huge pumpkin plants missing only one thing, a pumpkin. But it didn’t matter, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t done properly, or that he hadn’t researched how. What mattered was the creative impulse, the desire, the pride we felt in growing something ourselves.
When we moved into our current house a couple of years ago, I became obsessed with buying (too many) houseplants. A few died, but in the process became a person who is now “good with plants”. I love them, talk to them, dust them, decorate their pots, and enjoy watering them. I couldn’t imagine our home without plants, they bring me joy and inspire my art.
Whilst I was busy growing indoors, Paul had decided to get a place on an allotment nearby. I wasn’t so happy about it, as I thought Paul spent too much time there and not enough time working on things in the new house… For two years in a row, I refused to go there as a form of discreet protest. Until this year that is, when a debilitating depression drove me to go to the allotment as a way to have something to do, a structure, a way to get my hands in the earth, and spend time with Paul. We have been going there every single weekend: we dug the earth over, built a compost, cut the grass, and of course, we grew plants in pots to be transplanted later on. I discovered the singular joy there is in putting my hands into a bag of soil, transferring it into a small pot, making a hole and placing some seeds there, in the hope that one day soon, we would be able to see a little something green peaking its head out. And when it does… well, there is nothing quite like it, nothing quite like seeing something you planted weeks ago finally growing: that a seed, such a small tiny thing, when put into the earth, opens up to create a magnificent piece of nature.
In mid-May, we went to plant our babies: Hokkaido pumpkins (my favourites), crown prince squash, courgette and sweet corn. But bad luck struck… Yes, there was a frost, two days after we planted, the last frost of the year. We had planted too soon… How devastating, after putting so much love into growing them from scratch. We decided to start from scratch again, with the aim of planting out in June.
We often feel inadequate next to our neighbouring allotments that look so much more professional and well kept. But we are not in it for perfection, we are in it to learn. And what you learn with plants is the deep and slow rhythm of life itself, growing closer to nature, taking care of small beings that will, one day, gift you with something you can cook and eat. How extraordinary!