Until two weeks ago, I’d never watched a single episode of Gardener’s World. I know, I feel I should apologise. I am British, I promise.
It was never on in my house growing up – I remember Songs of Praise and The Antiques Roadshow, but not Monty Don – and besides, I’ve never been interested in gardening. The occasional garden attached to student homes or houses in our twenties were places to skulk on the edges of during house parties, huddled in a scraggy fur sharing a Marlboro (Light), an extension of the kitchen when the kitchen got too crowded. In my second-ever London house, we had a decent-sized garden but never ventured off the (mossy, slippery) wooden decking, thanks to lurking fragments of broken bottles, grassy sea urchins waiting to stab you through your ballet pump. There was never any appeal to devoting love and care to a space when you knew you’d be moving on in a year; and gardening is, famously, not a short-term game.
But then, 2020, and our gardens – if you were lucky enough to have one – were all the space we had. And time was no longer a luxury but a blank sheet.
It started with my favourite kind of gardening. The destructive kind. Looking at an overgrown mass of bushes and weeds and an ugly rockery and cleaning it, making it new again. I’m no good at the other kind; seeing the potential and planning and nurturing and making things beautiful, but tearing up what’s there – that’s fun. It’s satisfying in the same way as clearing out an old cupboard, or the fridge after weeks of ignoring the almost-empty jam jars and wilted herbs. It makes me feel lighter, freer, better.