I have never been interested in gardens. The closest I ever came to actually doing anything garden-related was a trip to Kew Gardens, once, when we were living in London. Gardening was stuff other people did. Specifically my Mother and my Sister who bonded over gardens and cooking when I was a child. I took the pip with their natural talents in both areas and simply swore never to cook or garden. Obviously I got over the cooking issue (but not til I was 19 or so) but by stubborn nature (really?) has stupidly kept me out of gardening until this last year gone. Even owning our lovely villa in Mt Eden for all those years didn’t go anything to encourage me. You can be pretty unadventurous and keep it simple with a villa garden if you want – lots of green, some roses and more Buxus than you can poke a stick at.
The turning point for me, finally, was the moving into our current home 2.5 years ago. We bought a terrible mis-match of periods, renovations, paints, finishes and continuity (there was none). The house is 150 years old and has been one of the original old home on the farm land that became Mt Eden/Epsom, a home for wayward mothers, minor NZ rock star royalty, and furniture purveyors. Having NEVER cared about what a garden bought (other than the most perfunctory of structure) I realized that the choice of garden would be incredibly important to the house as much as anything. We stripped the entire site over a year, leaving only the two protected pohutakawa trees in the front garden (and that is a whole other post of its own) and 6 other random trees on the site.
And it forced me to think, and to actually look at what gardens are. The huge variety of what you can put in a garden and what you can leave out. I realized I wanted something old, (like a stately rambling English garden) with a modern twist. I had no idea how to achieve that look AT ALL. Luckily we were in a position to get someone to do that for us, and I also had the great fortune to meet the charming Xanthe White. I can most definitely say (without a shadow of a doubt) that she was the best thing to happen to this house (and us). She gave me time while my head darted around all over the place, space to think things through and grace (and boy did she need it) to cope with me changing my mind at a rate of knots.
The garden finally went in 6 months ago and we couldn’t be more pleased. It is still very young, and the trees and hedges are small, but it fits our brief perfectly and I finally feel like the house and its surrounds fit together well. So well that people assume we have painted the house and repaired it, when all we have done is added the garden. It complements the house so perfectly.
The strange thing has been, during this process, that I have realized that you don’t need any real talent to grow things. I always felt you needed so magic green thumb or the like. Turns out not to be the case. Don’t get me wrong, talent helps! But for someone like me growing things that you end up eating has been a revelation. I have four large, raised garden beds in my back garden now. I grow heirloom tomatoes, lovely cherry tomatoes, and truckloads of bright red peppers. There are other things (lettuces and herbs) as well, and I am also the proud owner of a worm farm (yes I know, even I can’t quite believe it). Some days I have absolutely no idea who I am! My children laugh as I garden – dressed of course, head to toe in black with my gardening birkenstocks and my beautiful bright orange gardening gloves. I like to stand in the garden in the evening watering things (and also sometimes forgetting too). I have over watered, and under watered but the garden seems to have coped with my ineptitude and kept giving us things to eat.
Two things have helped me (and the garden) survive, the enthusiasm of my children for the project and Xanthe White’s Organic Vegetable Gardening book. It has everything laid out monthly so you know what to plant, when to plant and how to plant it. The book takes you through the full year and I would have been lost without it. Don’t get me wrong – I am no green-fingered deity. I have killed things and forgotten things and started in a blaze of enthusiasm only to ignore the garden for the hottest month in the year and nearly destroyed all of Xanthe’s hard thought and work. But luckily for me gardens are organic in nature, and ebb and flow are exceedingly forgiving (especially here in Auckland). It turns out underneath all that stubbornness is someone who actually likes to garden. Who knew…
*NB It turns out I love two more things about gardening – all the tools and bits and pieces. I have an old radio flyer wagon that all my gardening tools (all of which came from Father Rabbit) live in that the kids pull around the garden after me. And it turns out I now get all the ‘gardener’ products – I read gardening magazines and books (and I vaguely understand what they are talking about) and things like The Aromatherapy Gardener Collection now make perfect sense. What is not to love about all that twine and wood, beautiful hand washes and creams. I’d like to give away the Therapy Range Gardener Gift Set and Citronella Scented Candle – so comment below or on FB and I will draw a winner by the end of the week…
Also – if you want to find Xanthe White you can do so at xanthewhitedesign