Reflecting on six years in a North London garden

We’re pleased to have a guest blog for you from the wonderful Emma Wilson, Lovestruck Gardener. Like many of us who move away, she was sad to leave her garden of six years.

We hope you enjoy reading about Emma’s experiences.

After six very happy years in our North London Victorian terrace, we recently moved away.

We decided that, much as we love Harringay, we want to be closer to the forest (though still within London) and so we have moved to Chingford, where the forest is literally on the doorstep. We were sad to leave the old house, which has a lot of Victorian charm (and which we put a lot of effort into rescuing from a state of neglect as a house of multiple occupancy). But most of all we were sad to leave the garden.

I started blogging about our garden in February 2016. The garden was looking quite forlorn – the wonderful fruit trees were all bare and the flower beds still pretty sparse. So I was seeking ways to cheer it up, with primroses and various blubs – and lots of pots. I struggled a little with the squirrels who ate some of the bulbs, but I soon worked out which ones squirrels prefer and which ones they leave alone. 

The garden wildlife continued to entertain, enrich and challenge us – in March, I wrote about the joy of seeing the birds feeding at the feeders and splashing in the birdbath, and some of the challenges posed by cats and slugs, not to mention the cheeky squirrels who very quickly got used to the bird feeders.

Changing seasons

In spring and summer the garden exploded into life, becoming very lush. By May, the trees were full of leaves, providing welcome privacy at the back, and I was seeking ways to create a ‘green wall’ around the garden by introducing various climbers and wall shrubs to the fences, including honeysuckle, ivy, jasmine, and various clematis, including clematis armandii, an excellent evergreen clematis that grows fast and flowers in early spring. By contrast, in late autumn, I wrote a piece ‘in praise of fallen leaves,’ reflecting not only on the sadness of seeing our bare fruit trees – which had been feeding us all summer – but also some of the benefits, such as greater visibility. For instance, our lovely (evergreen) fatsia was revealed in all its glory, and we had the chance to really see the birds and the squirrels as they chased each other through the naked trees.

Gardening can help heal

In the years that followed, I wrote less frequently on my blog, for various reasons, one of them being the loss of my mother in February 2017. In May 2017, on the date that would have been Mum’s 80th birthday, I reflected on gardening and mental health. I highlighted the things that make gardening such a tonic – including the opportunity it gives for people to nurture plants and wildlife, and for sharing and connecting; the value of being busy and distracted in the garden, or just pottering and getting away from it all; and the absolute focus of watching a bee gathering pollen or a fox sleeping in a patch of sun on the lawn.

There has been some drama, such as the time my husband and I were (practically) evicted from our allotment. I wrote about how we brought downsized allotment gardening to our back garden, using various pots, potato bags and a small rectangle of the flower bed. We had varying degrees of success, but learned an awful lot in the process.  Spring 2018 brought some very strange and variable weather, and I reflected on the challenges of this for gardening, and also made some recommendations for ground-covering plants to help reduce the weeding. 

Do we need all this plastic?

I also tackled the question of plastic, which was being discussed a lot at the time by Monty Don and others. I highlighted some of its uses in the garden, as well as various ways that we can limit our consumption of single-use plastic and ways to reuse what we already have, and find alternatives to buying more plastic (not always possible). I also found some (still limited) examples of plastic recycling, discovering just how hard it was to recycle black plastic plant pots … 

Never one to shy away from big topics, my final post relating to the old garden touched on the menopause. At the time, there was a lot of BBC coverage of the topic and a lot of awareness raising going on. And I was also experiencing some of the exhausting and emotionally draining symptoms of the peri-menopause. The garden at the time was a place of rest and rejuvenation, and a time for reflection about nature and what is important in life.

Time for a new caring owner

When we were selling our house, we were very keen for the buyer to be someone who also cared for nature and would love the garden the way it was. When you sell your house, you can’t guarantee that the buyer won’t dig up the garden and replace it with concrete and astroturf. Luckily for us, our buyer told us that the garden had been a key selling point. My husband had initially been anxious about whether she would feed the birds. (When he left his last property, he had left his bird feeders with the owners and they had taken on feeding of the birds, even though they hadn’t previously done so.) This time there was no need to worry: ‘of course’ she feeds the birds.

The new owner is also excited that foxes visit the garden, and so she won’t be blocking up the various holes they have made in the fences, which have allowed several regular foxes to make our garden their territory, visiting numerous times a day. And she is hoping to introduce a bog garden to attract frogs and toads – something we hadn’t yet got round to. She was very interested to see all the climbers we have introduced along the garden fences, and it’s good to know that she will be encouraging my dream of having a ‘green wall’ all around the garden. It already encourages a huge range of insects and birds, and eventually some birds could decide to nest there.

So we are content that we have left the old garden in good hands. And now we are looking forward to a whole host of new challenges in our new garden! About which I will continue to blog …

If you want to check out more posts from Emma, then check out her blog here

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