Have you noticed the gardens in your neighbourhood lately? That’s one good thing that has come out of COVID – with holidays cancelled and camping sites full many have decided to stay home and make their garden an escape from the everyday world. And we do have a long and loving history with gardens. The word “garden” or “yard” comes from the Old English word “geard” which means enclosure. So the idea of having a garden as being purely aesthetic and for no other purpose except to look pretty has been with us for centuries way back to the Egyptians and the Ancient Greeks.
The love of gardening is so strong that it has developed its own tourism industry with highlights being events such as the Chelsea Flower Show and the blooming of tulips at Keukenhof in the Netherlands. For non gardeners it is hard to believe that someone would get on a plane for 8 hours just to go and see certain types of roses – but it is true.
While some might travel for hours to see beautiful blooms others might want to go to a famous garden with no flowers at all. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Scotland is quite amazing to see – not many plants but lots of curves and shapes that is actually very restful.
In contrast to this are the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall close to a little place called Mevagissey. This is pure fantasy with a little bit of everything – a true Secret Garden. After the hard times of World War I the gardens were neglected as the gardeners went to fight and became so overgrown no one really knew what beauty lay beneath the weeds. Thankfully it has been restored and the 200 acres is well worth seeing.
So now that we have a little more time on our hands maybe we can create something interesting, calming and distracting in our own gardens – not just for us but for the neighbourhood as a whole. Maybe even think of giving passers by a bit of a chuckle.
They say that good gardeners have a green thumb (something I sadly lack) but it reminded me of a gardener who worked for us when we lived in Swaziland. He had come to the front door looking for a job – quite elderly but he said he was a good gardener. I felt sorry for him so said he could work in the vegetable patch – even though I had a regular gardener. I know this all sounds like Downton Abbey but in Africa, if you can, you should employ as many people as possible. Every little bit helps. Shame I felt so bad for him because his back wasn’t good and I really wasn’t sure if he would be able to do anything but he was happy to earn a few Emalangeni (the local currency) and get his tea and sandwich. Well before I knew it we had a vegetable plot like no other – the plants were flourishing and it almost started to look like a jungle. The only problem was they were all cabbages. Now don’t get me wrong – I like cabbage – but a whole plot of cabbages. We had two harvests and he started planting again. By this time I had had a bit much of the cabbage festival that was going on. There was no way we could eat it all and we gave it away left, right and centre. So I approached him with the help of my interpreter and told him that I would really like some carrots and lettuce planted instead of the cabbages. He mumbled something in Siswati (the local language) under his breath and shuffled off back to his plot shaking his head holding onto the packages of seeds I had got for him. A few weeks went by and when I went to take a look at the progress the seeds were still in their packets and there was another huge crop of cabbages coming up.
I started to get mad. This was getting silly. I explained to him that I was very happy to pay him and give him his lunch but I did not want any more cabbage. He shuffled back to the vegetable patch muttering under his breath, gathered his belongings and left without a word. Well that was strange. Oh well.
But you know what was really strange? Nothing – I mean absolutely nothing would grow in that vegetable patch ever again. Not even cabbage. I think he cast a spell.