Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Garden Magic

Garden Magic!

Gardens are magic places.

A story from my childhood.

‘My Grandmother’s house was a tall, three story high, old Victorian, brick house on the edge of a old aging brick built town, on the outskirts of London. It was surrounded, as one might guess, by tall dark laurel bushes, planted between tall dark pines. But the garden was not all shade and darkness, as in the center was a wide-open patch of grass that was a tennis court. And to one side was the vegetable garden. And beyond a tall hedge was an orchard, where my aunt kept her rabbits.

It was a place of abundance after my house in London, where I lived with my mother, Grandmother and two aunts. In that house I had to sleep in the same room as my mother. There were no wide corridors, and only a very narrow steep staircase, that I had once fallen down, that lead to the three upstairs rooms. There one could hear what the neighbours were playing on their record player, and when they came to blows after drinking at night. But here, though I sometimes got bored by myself all day, I could wander and dream. I could even find someone to talk to if the gardener had finished digging up the carrots, and was sitting in his shed for his elevenses.

I would prop up the door and ask him if he had seen any wild rabbits in his garden. I had just read Peter Rabbit and I knew that rabbits did not ordinarily live in hutches, like my aunt’s, but with their mother, under the roots of an old tree. And that they loved going into vegetable gardens to nibble on things they found for themselves.

Just then I saw a mouse run across the window of the shed. However the mouse was running on his hind legs, and was dressed in a green velvet suit!  I did not think that the gardener would believe me if I told him what I had just seen, but I did ask him if he’d seen any mice recently. He said,
The varmint. They make a mess in this shed every night.’
I wondered if maybe Grandmother would believe me if I told her about the mouse wearing green velvet, after all she had read the story to me last night. Would she have time to listen?

So I let the gardener eat his current bun in peace, and went in through the back door into the kitchen. Here Grandma sat with Winnie her maid having their elevenses.

            Come in dear and have a drink of milk. I’ll warm it up for you. Would you like some current bun too? It has pink icing on it.’
‘She was following me around all morning.’ Winnie complained.
            ‘Who is She’ reproved my grandmother. ‘You should call her Miss Julia.
            Miss Julia, then, she’s always asking questions.’
            ‘Its good for children to enquire. It shows intelligence.’ Grandma replied.
‘But darling’ she said turning to me, ‘You must not stop Winnie when she is working.’

By this time I had my milk and bun in front of me, and decided not to trouble them with mice walking on their hind legs, dressed in green velvet.

Later I was living with another set of grandparents. And again was intrigued by the garden shed. Here my grandfather polished our shoes, here he had a pot of glue with which he mended all kinds of broken things, from chairs to toys. The glue he told me was made from the hoofs of old horse - a thought that both intrigued and horrified me. In another yet another garden shed this grandfather had rows of apples on trays, to be kept for winter treats.

When I was thinking of garden shed I thought there must be a poem about garden shed but though I checked I could not find one, so I wrote this one.

The Garden Shed by Julia Catton

In a garden office
A precious hoard
Of sharpened implements
Are carefully stored.
Wheelbarrows, flowers pots
Are the gardener’s tools;
Horticultural equipment
Not used by fools.
String and posts
Trowel and hoe
For clever hands
Not any Joe.
Tom, Dick and Harry
Jane, Julie and Jill
Might dream of a garden
But it needs skill
And the will to work,
With rake and saw,
Clippers and spade -
And often more.
Until finally when
The seeds grow green
The gardener’ll discover
The image and dream.

And thinking about wheelbarrows here is a poem I did find, about wheelbarrows.

Wheelbarrow  by Eleanor Farjeon

He dumped her in the wheelbarrow
And trundled her away!
How he chaffed and how she laughed
On their wedding-day!

He bumped her through the garden-gate,
He bounced her down the lane!
The he reeled and then she squealed,
And off they bounced again.

He jiggled her across the ditch
He jobbled her through the holt!
He stubbed his toe and she cried O!
Whenever she got a jolt.

He wiggled her up the bridle-path,
He boggled her through the street –
Down he stumbled! Down she tumbled,
Right at the parson’s feet!

Garden sheds must catch their magic from gardens, for if you think about it wonderful things happen in gardens. Here there is silence while magic sleeps, and then with a rush in spring everything comes alive. Here those empty spaces where dry brown bulbs lie turn into beautiful beds of red tulips and yellow daffodils. And think of those small dry specks of seeds that you pushed into the ground that in a few months put on large leafy displays.

God’s Acre by Christina Rossetti

Hail. Garden of confident hope!
Where sweet seeds are quickening in darkness and cold’
For how sweet and how young will they be
When they pierce thro’ the mould,
Balm, myrtle, and heliotrope
There watch and there wait out of sight for their sun’
While the Sun, which they see not, doth see
Each and all one by one.

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