Once upon a time there was a small, barren patch of land in a field in North County Dublin. This square of muck was unloved and unworked, yearning for a gardener to come along and tend to it. One day, a young woman stood at its borders, surveying it’s potential and the patch of land was changed forever….
Every garden has a story. Be it a small back garden or an acre of land, a concrete yard or a wild meadow, every garden has a very unique story to tell us. Stories about the gardener, stories about the plants, stories about it’s structures and landscapes, stories about about the events that have taken place there, the bbq’s and parties, the buried pets and burglaries.
My garden’s story is one of love and loss, new beginnings and imparted knowledge, one of a woman who found her happiness buried in a heap of soil. The very first day I stood in my garden was the first paragraph in a novel in progress, a story that stretches back through generations and continues to grow into a hopeful future. When people visit my garden, I love to tell them the story of the garden, the history behind it, the future I have planned for it. I love to tell the story of my garden.
I may be relatively new to gardening, but it’s in my blood, my very DNA. My father is a gardener, my mother is a gardener, as is her mother and her grandfather before her and I like to think that a little bit of green flows through my veins. So many of my childhood memories are tied to gardens, playing in our front garden with my friends, watching my father tend to his tomatoes, helping my mother to pull up weeds. Playing in a yellow basin of water in my back garden with my cousin Kate. My Mam and our neighbour Sandra, sitting on the boundary wall between our houses on warm summer days. The monkey puzzle tree in our front garden that all the kids loved to climb, the noise of the rusty gate that I would swing on, my dog Brandy chewing on a bone in the shade of the tree and the day he got a watering can stuck on his head. The arbour my Dad built in the back garden. A day spent filling bags and bags with ivy from our back wall. A peony. An Iris. A geranium. A rose. The memories stretch on and on. They are rooted in the very soil of my childhood home.
My own garden is littered with four years of stories but its origins stretch back way further. My little allotment (not actually so little) is my very own garden story in action. When I first began my allotment project, I didn’t know rosemary from thyme, courgettes from pumpkins or dandelions from nettles. Now, I can point to every plant on the plot and tell you the story of how it got there. I have plants on the plot that were gifts from friends and family and fellow allotment holders. I have plants that ended up on the plot in error. There are plants that have failed and thrived. Plants that hold sad memories and happy ones. There are places in the garden that remind me of people long gone from my life and are almost painful to look at. There are corners of the plot that are rooted in heartbreak. There are spaces dedicated to the people I love.
I’ve had countless visitors and friends to the allotment and and the plot is full of their stories too.
There are entire colonies of wildlife living out their own stories in the garden. From the spiders in the polytunnel to the bees on the lavender, from the hare I find on the plot on quiet dewy mornings to the robin who goes diving for worms while I turn over the soil.
My garden has seen me through job loss, break ups, falling in love and back out again, bereavement and grief, it has seen me though the happiest times in my life and it has opened up more opportunities for me than I thought possible.
I’ve spent years wondering what it is I’m supposed to do with my life. I’ve worked as a baker, a shop assistant, a designer, I currently work in a financial institution and I’ve never really felt like I found the right fit. I always wanted to be a writer. I wanted to tell stories, to change the world, to leave something important behind; the garden might just be the greatest story I’ve ever told.
Right now, the story of my garden is at a grand reveal. The page in the book when the protagonist realises what’s been obvious to the readers all along. The scene in the movie when the hero discovers he loves the girl next door after all. It has become apparent that I was born to garden. I was born to write about it. I am meant to get my hands dirty, plant flowers, water vegetables. My passion for gardening is the netting onto which my tendrils have gripped, and as such, I grow, supported by my plot. Gardening is what I am meant to do. Writing about it is the bonus.
My garden is the binding on a book that tells my story and much like any great story, it is full of adventure, sadness, memories and dreams and it continues to be a page turner.
….and she lived happily ever after.