One day’s work would be enough. Enough to transform the garden at our previous house from ramshackle to haven. It was essentially a blank canvas: a square patio edged by an empty bed on two sides. Turn over soil, dig in compost, two hours planting – and it would have arrived. A garden is never finished, but this one would have at least become a coherent entity. Time would only improve it. That ‘Rome’ was built in a day.


Not so with our new garden. It is, in principle, a similar set up (mostly patio, one big bed) but it has required days of labour just to take it to the blank canvas stage. Three overgrown shrubs dominated the bed and the skyline. They had to go. Thus begun what has felt like a marathon of effort (my life is marked by the desk, not the ploughshare): cutting shrubs down, stripping useful wood of its greenery, dissecting the rest into compostable sizes, and building a compost heap from pallets to house them…. Four hours straight of using a pair of secateurs and I couldn’t close my hand the next day.


But it’s not the aching muscles that have been the biggest struggle (although walking to the station took twice as long after a gardening weekend); it’s the patience. In the old place, we did a bit of work but received instant gratification. Every hour, the garden looked better and better. This time, the stripping back of the old before we could create the new meant bringing even more chaos before there was order. Even the unappealing shrubs were better to look at that than the aftermath of their razing. And the work was fitted around paid occupations; we’d finish the weekend with a job half done, unable to return to it for six days.


So there has been waiting, but also satisfaction. And a progression. We’ve learnt new things, invested in new tools, turned (and strengthened) our hands to new ventures. And we now have plants in the ground, including our long-suffering clematis and jasmine that travelled with us from the old place, enduring both manhandling and neglect over the last few months. We’ve got more to do, but isn’t that kind of the point? A garden is never finished; after hours of labour and aching muscles, this garden is finally more than begun. And reshaping the space and the skyline has made it truly our own.


Today’s soundtrack: Vera Blue // Fingertips

One thought on “Toil

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