To own a garden is to possess a piece of heaven on earth, in my case a very small bit. But contrary to what the advertising world wants us to believe, size doesn’t always matter! Small can be beautiful, as I know from the pleasure my modest suburban garden gives me. Working in London makes me feel tense and caged in, but arriving at my house and garden on the edge of the River Thames 12 miles out of Town, I immediately begin to unwind and feel normal again. Whether I’m working physically in my garden, or simply sitting around enjoying the beauty, it helps rid me of frustrations.
I travel with my work, but as the song goes, “ it’s oh so nice to come home.” On arrival, before opening the door, I find myself dead-heading plants which grow in, or tumble out of, my hanging baskets and pots. A favourite flower is the pansy, whose cheeky face greets me back home like a member of a colourful, happy family. My well-nurtured brood respond to my care and attention, by regularly producing even more cheery faces to delight and amuse me!
In my small north facing back garden I’ve tried to create my own secret garden and I based my design on circles. Circles of green grass, paved circles of warm stone, and a circular shaped gazebo, the latter proving to be a major success. This dark mysterious cavern has finally taken shape after 7 years, as winter jasmine, trachelospermum jasminoides, with its dark shiny foliage and exquisite fragrant white flowers has slowly and methodically twisted its way up and around the supports. But each spring, a dead looking vine planted in the same year, madeleine sylvaner, suddenly springs into life, and starts its annual frenetic and aggressive race up and over the circular dome of the gazebo, fighting off anything that gets in it’s way!
Four crescent moon shaped flowerbeds, the result of the circular designed lawn, are well stocked with permanent residents such as phlomis, rosemary and lavender, many given to me by, and reminding me of, loved ones. Evergreens including spruce, cypress, bay and hebes, along with lilac and forsythia in springtime, provide height and shape. Four enormous egg shaped terracotta pots containing photinia serrulata red robin, stand amongst other pots, on wooden trolleys with wheels in the paved area. These can be moved effortlessly from one position to another, affording privacy or shade where and when required.
Poor soil and strong winds make gardening by the river difficult, but I’ve learnt over years which plants better suit these conditions. The sun rose, halimiocistus, is one of my success stories. In early spring this hardy shrub produces endless cream and pink saucer shaped flowers replacing them daily with fresh ones. A welcome sight as we move out of winter and a sure sign that summer isn’t far behind.
Accepting the poor soil and my erratic work schedule, has led me to the conclusion that assorted pots, troughs, hanging baskets and containers are the horticultral solution. Arranged informally the terracotta, stone and timber containers respond to regular watering and feeding, and can be simply re-potted to accommodate the changing seasons. Container gardening is practical, and many of the tubs and pots can be easily moved to facilitate people or occasions. Cleared away for example, to make more play space on the arrival of my boisterous grandchildren, or artistically re-positioned for dramatic effect at more sophisticated adult gatherings
The well-used barbecue and garden furniture, circular table of course, encourages entertaining el fresco. Freshly plucked herbs add piquant seasonings and aromas to simple fare at these informal, spontaneous and enjoyable gatherings. The garden changes according to mood and requirement, and can become an oasis of calm in which to sit to write, learn scripts or choreograph my movement classes
Weather permitting I will be found in my garden, scratching around like an early bird after the worm, happily lost in a world of my own. I find gardening very therapeutic and love being out in the fresh air whatever the weather, in my green wellies wrapped up against the winds and cold. I enjoy being physically active, digging the soil, and pitting my strength against robust plants or objects as I go about my outdoor tasks.
But mostly I love the peace and tranquillity I experience on a balmy summer night, sitting quietly alone, drink in hand, communing with the sights, sounds and smells of nature. It’s my idea of heaven!
I believe everyone should be able to enjoy the simple pleasures of a garden milieu. The sad fact is, that many disabled people still face barriers that prevent them from enjoying the slice of heaven gardens can bring.
Of course, if you don’t have your own garden, there are always parks and public gardens. Though many of these garden amenities are thankfully designed so that they are accessible to disabled people, accessing public transport is still an insurmountable obstacle for up to a third of disabled people in getting to them in the first place.
As someone whose life is so enriched by the love of gardens, I am pleased to see more work being done to give equal opportunities and equal access to public gardens for disabled people.