My gardening arrangements are a little unusual particularly as I have 24 acres of land at my disposal. A stroll along the track to the garden is probably no different from wandering off to an allotment every day. However, there is a twist in the tail. The vegetable and cottage garden and sit either side of the holiday cottage so they have to be invisibly maintained. In theory this is a simple case of nipping down to the garden, doing the weeding, grass cutting, planting, watering and everything else while the visitors are out exploring the delights of the island. Unfortunately the sun does not shine every day and some of the visitors enjoy the cottage and its garden so much that they stay put. So there are times when garden maintenance requires the meticulous planning and discipline of a military operation.
So pay attention and get ready to garden commando style.
- Intelligence – check the weather forecast and post a look out to watch for the departure of visitors
- Preparation – ensure that the tools are assembled – there is not time to search for the favourite trowel or hunt for the scissors
- Planning – work out the list of priorities and the work rota – there is no time to ramble around aimlessly deciding what to do first
- State of Readiness – be prepared to go as soon as the look out gives the signal – no time to look for the gardening fleece/sun hat/glasses/clean socks and remember exactly where you left your gloves/scarf or packets of seeds that Seamus the postie delivered yesterday.
The briefing notes may just contain the faintest hint that the theory is sound but the execution is more Hebridean than Sandhurst. It normally starts to go pyriform as soon as I leave the house when I get diverted to watch a bumblebee assaulting the clover or admire a patch of wild carrot. By the time I get to the polytunnel to collect my tools, I will have discovered that I have forgotten something or that before I begin to hunt for my trowel that I must water the seedlings. Eventually when I get into the cottage garden I am so exhausted by all this thinking that I just have to sit on the garden bench and admire the view. Now to consult my list of jobs, which is of course in my other jacket/trousers. So a ramble around the garden to make sure the bees are busy, admire the butterflies, hunt for ladybirds and count the hoverflies becomes essential. After several trips to collect assorted tools, plants and essential miscellanea I am ready to start work. Oh well, there is just enough time to remove the biggest weeds and water a few pots before lunch.
Hebridean style garden maintenance is so relaxed that it allows your mind to drift and meander in the most delightful and unstructured manner. Watching the bumblebees fumbling the clover on a very warm afternoon brought Henry Reed’s poem Naming of Parts to mind and so the seeds of this post were sown. As for the cottage garden, its slightly unkempt appearance is part of its charm, after all it is a place to dream and be seduced by the hum of the bees and the songs of seals.