After a long and exhausting day at work, I ventured into the garden yesterday afternoon to water the vegetable beds and cut some fresh flowers. My intention was to decompress and take my anger out on some of the overgrown weeds that have been blocking the steps for some time now. With Xico in tow as my bodyguard, we went down one step at a time, pulling weeds as we went along. It’s amazing what you discover under all that mess, and I found some other wonderful plants along the way.
I grew up within the circles of a privileged expat life where the houses were huge and abundant with household staff. There was always a gardener or two included in this, so I learned about gardening in a limited way, i.e. how and what to tell the gardener to plant. It was only when I moved to Berlin (first in 2001 and then in 2017) that I took care of my own potted plants, and dared to prune and propagate, not always successfully, but I didn’t kill too many. During those years I always mourned the fact that I didn’t have more space to really go all out plant crazy.
Note to self: be careful what you wish for, because the universe is always listening!
So here I am with a gigantic garden and no clue how this is all going to end up looking. It’s the best case of flying on a wing and a prayer! Although I should probably revise that to a shovel and a prayer… The most valuable lesson of the day was that nettles are a pain in the ass and hands. But Xico and I cleared a nice patch of steps and you can actually see where you are going now and not guesstimating where to step next. In case you’re wondering, Cherry is too much of a diva for this menial work and refused to cross the street with us. She held court on the terrace instead. It was just as well since her short arthritic legs would be overwhelmed by everything and she would just vanish among the plants.
There are two prominent trees that anchor the entire garden and act as a cardinal point. The walnut tree and a fig tree. Over the years the branches have intertwined and from late spring to autumn (well, whatever counts as autumn here in Portugal, so let’s go with November instead), the two trees form a wonderful canopy. In winter it is dramatically bare, but now that spring has arrived, the first signs of the new leaves have appeared.
It was a gorgeous afternoon, and I was thrilled to be outdoors in the garden. Under the two trees is a little sitting area that has been built into the slope and a stone table that can’t be moved or relocated, pretty much like my dining table. I started pruning some of the branches with the absolutely wrong tool, but since it wasn’t part of the plan for the afternoon, I figured what the hell, I’m already here. Once I cleared the area a bit, I sat down at the table and ran my hand over the stone. I can’t really explain it but there was an instant and magical connection with that little corner and I realised that I just discovered the perfect writing place! Much as I love my office indoors, I have been struggling to find that perfect spot with divine inspiration. After trying pretty much every corner in the house, that special vibration kept eluding me.
When I first saw the sitting area several months ago, I thought of it as a cute little picnic area to have a wonderful countryside lunch or dinner. This afternoon was a completely different experience and I finally connected with the stone and the trees. Starting from the top lefthand image and going clockwise: 1. The table 2. the view to the right when sitting at the table 3. the terraced sitting area 4. the view to the left from the table. Some people have fancy garden furniture to boast, but my garden has built my furniture for me!
By the time I went back into the house my hands were burning from the stupid nettles. So it was perfect timing that the fridge decided to defrost and I had to mop up ice cold water! As I type this, my fingers are still stinging but the prospect of an outdoor writing haven is too exciting for me to care about the nettle aftermath. Yes, yes, I’ll wear gardening gloves next time.
Oh, and as follow up to the previous blog entry: the farmer brought me a load of spinach and lettuce with yesterday’s mystery box, not to mention more carrots and sweet potatoes. This time, instead of a fennel bulb I received a nice big turnip. Why do I feel as though I teleported into the middle of a Ladybird story?
The Garden Transformation – Part I