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Gardening with Nature Spirits

seeking the green 2

Today looks like being reasonable weather. Not really sunny, not really warm, but reasonable. I’m happy to settle for that. It’s time to get out into the garden with the secateurs and gardening gloves. I’ve got bluebells, croci, daffodils etc. to plant. And things to cut down.

Normally I am not a great one for pruning things. Normally I like a bit of benign neglect in a garden – let’s face it with four great dogs lolloping around I don’t actually have a lot of choice. Last winter my lawn looked like the Somme. But today I know I have to be a bit drastic. The Rowan tree needs pruning, it looks as though it’s trying to get into the house, and the rhododendrons are about twelve feet high and rising. They need a bit of a trim. So it’s into the garage to find a saw.

I always feel guilty when I have to use the saw. I don’t like doing it. I’m sure the tree doesn’t like me doing it either. But it’s got to be done. And afterwards, when the garden is covered in bits and bobs and I’ve got a demented Bassett Hound running amok in the middle of it, I’ve got to cut it all up and get rid of it. Some will be cut into nice little logs for Halloween and Bonfire night. Mr Penry, like so many Valley’s Boys, is very fond of his bonfires. It fulfils some deep primeval need, I think.

Mr Penry yesterday bought me a bench for down in the garden; it’s tucked away near the hedge so it’s nice and secluded. I love sitting out there in the garden and now that I’ve got a couple of benches I can move around as the mood takes me. I’m busy writing at the moment, which is lonely at the best of times and I don’t like being indoors for too long, so the benches are ideal.

Being in the garden isn’t just ideal for writing, however. If you want to start gardening with the nature spirits, this is the way to start. Forget reading a book (or a blog!) and get outside. In a park, in the garden, anywhere you can see a bit of greenery. In medieval times the monastery cloister was believed to be conducive to learning and meditation because of the colour green. It’s the same for us. We need to see a bit of green too.

When we first moved here some years ago, the garden was a wilderness. I mean really, really overgrown. It was unbelievable. There were brambles as thick as my wrist, I half expected them to reach out and attack me. When we turned up with the removal van I had a pair of secateurs and a pruning knife hanging from my belt!

Our neighbour, Mrs Anubis Evans was determined to offer advice. ‘Use weed killer!’ she yelled. ‘Cut down that hedge a bit!’ (so she could better nose into my garden, I suspect.) ‘Put down plenty of slug pellets!’ But I had no desire to enrol in her Slash and Burn School of Gardening, so I just waited, knowing that the garden itself would tell me what it needed, what it wanted.

For this place had once been loved. And Something loved it still. This is important. No matter how overgrown and unkempt a place looks, Something still loves it. The main garden (where the dogs play) was buzzing with insects and birds, and all that drowsy sweetness that autumn brings in its wake. Whenever the weather permitted (which wasn’t often) I would wander outside and sit there. Sometimes I would just stand there in the middle of what had once been a lawn but was now a jungle and say aloud, ‘Where the hell do I start?’

But this wasn’t a cry of despair. It was an appeal for help. And one thing about working with Nature is that if you ask for help, She answers.

So bit by bit I started getting messages. Communications. Advice. Trim this back, it’s strong, it’ll grow again. Go easy with that, it’s fragile. Cut away here, look beneath, there are plants struggling to grow….It was astonishing. The following summer the garden was a riot of colour and activity and I had hardly planted anything, just allowed it to be itself.

In the years since I have planted many things. Some work, some don’t. I don’t like to cut back unless I have to. I try to plant what the garden needs and wants. Because we live on a mountainside the garden is on several different levels, each with its own likes and dislikes. There are parts where Nature takes charge, parts where I am given a little more control. And there is one past, the waste ground, which I have so far left well alone. ‘Someone’ likes it there.