Saturday, August 1, 2020

In Praise of the Small Garden

As I walked to and from work today (yes, I am back at work and yes, I am feeling better thanks), melting in the cruel heat of the midday sun (oh to be in Greenland right now!), my eye was drawn from the softening tarmac, the relentless blue sky and the bursts of intense light bouncing off car windscreens, to the side of the pavement. In particular, to the front gardens of the houses that lined them. 

Living in a city, most of the front spaces have been turned into car parks as people decide they cannot possibly exist without their car Right Outside their front door. Some are little more than paved waiting areas for the big green and black wheelie bins each household has. But on this street, most have been left as mini gardens and the contents, I think, reflect the people inside. 

There's the one with ivy creeping up over the front door, numerous shells cover the seat of a small bench and there are handmade items almost hidden in the dahlias. Another has a purple slate path that meanders, tinyly through small beds of daisies, Mexican fleabane, phlox and other country flowers. They've managed to fit in a birdbath and a bird table too. 

I pass the one that has 2 wheelie bins but they are partially hidden behind a patch of grass no wider than a flymo that has been allowed to grow to knee height. After that comes the larger property with the sweeping gravel drive, gates painted a tasteful shade of green and 2 artfully pruned trees whose shade allows me to gratefully catch my breath. 

The next has a wall made of bricks, each painted a different pastel shade of pink, yellow, green and purple. It has holes cut in it that have been seeded by thrift, daisies and buttercups. Then there's the one I call the witches garden: it's full of herbs that have been allowed to go wild, including the most enormous rosemary shrub that's been carefully clipped into a pleasing curving shape. 

There are paths of slate, brick, tarmac and gravel. Windows that bow out, sash up and down or simply fling their two halves open to the light. Doors are green, white, blue and red, one a yellow that startles the eye. Numbers are printed on enamel signs, pottery tiles or straight onto the doors themselves. 

In the windows, signs and rainbows for the NHS are still up, yellowing and curling in the sun. One has pictures of the owner’s art as part of the local Art At Home week. There are sun catchers, dream catchers and wind chimes in others.  

Our own tiny patch of front garden is in need of weeding but is full of snap dragons, daisies, marigolds and lavender that the bees are going crazy over. Inside our plain black door is the new addition to our family and my heart is full at the thought of playtime and cuddles with Mabel. 

As I type this now, she’s fast asleep, curled up next to me. A brief pause before she wakes and starts exploring again. There is something so completely joyful in her demeanour and curiosity, it's helping us see our house anew. 

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