Julia Harbage writes
My garden anchors me in the here and now. A tiny piece of the world which is mine to throw myself into body and soul in all weathers.
I opened my eyes to gardening when I turned 28, newly married with a new-build house. A patch of unloved grass, a scrappy hawthorn tree and a fence held the promise of a lush, mature garden in my mind’s eye. But the work involved to make this happen was daunting. So I tuned in to a television series ‘The Victorian Kitchen Garden’ hosted by Harry Dobson, with its cheerful piano and clarinet theme tune. Each week I dutifully took notes. It was a revelation and took me back to the girl who wandered round her Granny’s garden, delighting in the electric yellow of the broom and rainbow borders of pom pom dahlias. Finding that person again has been a very comforting experience of my life.
I’m still a rookie gardener. I make it up as I go along. I’ve killed many undeserving plants; I’ve had to apologise to ones I’ve planted in the wrong place. And I’ve completely failed to nurture plants that I’m told ‘any fool can grow’, like sweet peas. But I can grow hydrangeas, Michaelmas daisies and oleanders. Also lupins and camellias. Roses seem to like me too. I used to mind the weeds but now I keep those that are pretty and which are good for pollinating insects.
Gardening has taught me to ‘grow where I’m planted’ and to make the most of any house I’ve lived in. It has given me much to think about and it has slowed me down. It’s the only activity I can still do when I’m worried, angry or sad. Tending a garden is a meditative and humbling experience. It’s often a triumph of hope over expectation. You can’t force anything; everything has its time and you just have to wait.
Apart from the chill of December and January, when all seems to have stopped, I garden in all weathers, enjoying the company of my friend the robin. I carry on gardening when my whole body aches and I can’t weed another bed; dig another hole or prune another climber. Nothing makes me happier than being in my garden with the sun on my back and a cup of tea in my hand.
My garden connects me with what is outside myself like few other things can and that to my mind is the secret of happiness. Time in my garden is my time with God and the joy of nature, in all her seasons. It’s like being handed endless gifts that delight and awe me daily, which I count as true blessings.