A meditation on memory. Gardening as remembrance. How places and plants can have echoes as well as leaves and roots in the past.
I am thinking of the Danish summerhouse now, and my Devon childhood. How the two gardens in many ways mirror each other, but also of their essential difference.
Both were defined by their proximity to the sea. My Devon home ran out on to an estuary bank; the Danish beach hut is hunkered close to the coast, 200 metres from the sand.
We were the same age, around 50, my foster father and me, when we took charge of these two pieces of land. Devon was on a grander scale. My dad carving out gardens from farming fields, three acres of orchard and croft. Denmark is more modest, 1,000 sq metres, but both are surrounded by hazel hedges, oaks and pine. They each have cherry.
In a dim echo of Dad’s orchard, we have old-school Danish apple trees, pears and currants, but not his favourite gooseberries.
Dad was one for mowing, crafting lawn from field – it was us boys who raked the grass. Conversely, I long for ours to run to meadow. I leave large patches of trefoil. I cheer on the clover, daisy and cowslip, even the dandelion. I have a deep fascination with moss.
We have planted rugosa and an old clambering rose. Both spots are havens for butterflies and birds. But here the differences rub. Dad’s thing was un-wilding space, as though somehow nature could make him uneasy. The wild was something to be neatened, conquered and controlled. Sometimes me, too. He was gifted at it, without question, good at adding value.
My gardening is more of an attempt to listen to the land, a search for free expression. These places and its people, though, shaped me. Denmark and Devon. And Dad.
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