I have dithered and delayed and thought of other things, but still I keep coming back to an idea that compels me to write this blog. There isn’t really much to say, but my pictures might tell the story. About my garden – the secret one.
Being Miss Jack of All Trades, as my father would say, I have a personality that is split into several fields of interest. In my love of gardens, Monty Don is one of my heroes and his books would be some of the first I’d grab if our house were burning. But I am no Monty, nor Gertrude Jekyll, nor Una van der Spuy whom I have also admired very much. It would be ridiculous for me to think I am a gardener.
Trying to grow this enclosed garden from a patch of bare earth has been one jolly big adventure, sometimes a source of fun and joy, other times a headache and a bane. Then I rather go and lose myself in the beautiful book MAURITZFONTEIN The story of a Karoo garden.[https://mauritzfontein.com/our-garden/]
What helps is that I can close the gate and not have to see it when it is looking a mess, much like one closes the door of a teenager’s bedroom. But it doesn’t go away.
Over the years we have grown amazing vegetables and eaten really healthy food from this shut away garden, but it is so hit and miss. If we were to depend on it, we’d not survive. There are just so many gooseberries you can eat, or nettle soup, and I don’t think anybody likes to eat spinach every day – the three things that most willingly grow in abundance!
Anyone who reads my blog or follows my Instagram will know how much I love my hens. This garden was a source of their absolute delight. I saw really artistic cauliflowers re-sculpted by their greedy beaks, but even so, I could not bring myself to trim their wings. Eventually we erected a fence above the wall and built a new gate. Success! A hen-free garden.
The soil in this garden has been enriched over the past ten years and is now lovely and loamy. We have pony and chicken manure and kitchen compost that gets dug in regularly. But the water remains high in lime and salt and the summer sun still beats down mercilessly while the southeaster screams like a spoiled child – from time to time. These are our challenges. The windbreaks have made a difference. Shade netting is not really an option – the wind would rip it down and toss it aside on any given day.
We have eaten pumpkin, butternut, squash, carrots, onions, leeks, cauliflower, cabbage, watermelon, tree melon, tomatoes, chillies, peppadews, aubergine, courgettes, peas, beans, beetroot, spinach, spring onions and a whole variety of herbs from this garden. But it has been as unreliable as me – I am not a constant gardener. And there is nobody to step in when I forget. It makes the thrill of finding something to eat all the more wonderful – because I dare not expect it and I certainly don’t deserve it. It’s all pot luck. Imagine what a bit of dedication could do.
Elderflowers have been made into cordial, grapefruit into marmalade, wild tomatoes as tiny as marbles have given salads blasts of flavour. Thyme and rosemary are plentiful and reliable – always. The elderflowers are not reliable; every other year I’ve managed to scrape together enough blooms to make cordial. Nothing beats ice cold elderflower cordial mixed with sparkling water on a hot summer’s day!
Or grapefruit marmalade on buttered sourdough toast in a warm kitchen on a winter’s morning…
Thank you for taking a walk with me through my hidden garden. It is shut away most of the time… every now and again inspiration prompts me to go inside, pull out weeds and plant seedlings.
And eat a gooseberry or three.