From an early age, my father tried to instill in me a general love of plants and gardening. I helped him weed if I wanted something (usually a pass to stay out late!), he said I had green fingers, I would just roll my eyes. I did however always love sunbathing and reading surrounded by flowers and birdsong. I just didn’t really get the gardening bug until I had a place of my own. Gardening came into my life around 2003 when I looked at the little space in front of my new house and wondered “what should I do?”. I came up blank on what to do with the cobbled, hilly, overlooked area that I had available, so I bought a few pots and then some more and ended up with a selection of random pots with various bulbs and slips of things. Due to my green fingers (apparently!) nearly everything grew but it was random and eclectic which suited my personality but not my needs.
I had no plan, no idea about shade or sun or soil or slugs or aphids or anything really. I had a nice house and what resembled a randomly populated area in front of it. All my family are in Ireland, so didn’t know any gardeners in the UK that could help me to implement my vague ideas and I was working 12-14 hour days and a lot of weekends so had little time to look. That was my predicament so when I opened the Evening Standard in January 2006 and found an article where a garden could be bought like a kitchen I began to dream. A guy called Joe Swift said he could give you a basic beautiful bespoke garden starting at £6k and he was also a presenter for Gardener’s World (I’d never heard of him). I had watched the programme with my Dad often – I knew who Monty Don was (him of the nice hands and twinkle of the eye), my Dad and I both agreed he could be trusted, he was a straight talker, we bonded over Monty – you can probably tell I am a fan! Anyway, I liked the sound of this modular garden and I had just finished re-assembling the inside of the house so why not? Joe came out and we discussed the brief – east facing, shady, overlooked, I wanted birds, bees and butterflies, a palette of white and blue with some architectural planting and the odd wow but fairly normal – oh and some planters on wheels please.
We soon had a construction agreement and within 3 months the garden was completed. The garden ended up costing me nearer to £10k, due to some changes to the basic model… benches, sprayed planters on wheels to name a few. £10k is a lot of money but in reality it has been one of the best personal investments I have ever made. It is a pleasure to tend, it allows me hours of joy and contemplation, it has re-ignited a dormant love of gardening and I have evolved the planting and taken seeds and slips from my Dad’s garden. It is good for my health both physical and mental as tending it gives me exercise but also pleasure and time to contemplate and the weeding is definitely a great stress buster. I spend at least 8 hours a week in it “weather permitting” often with friends, with a book or doing some planting/weeding Others take pleasure in it and I thank Joe who gave me design foundation which inspired me to become a gardener and unearth a great love.