Autumn Reflections

It’s been quite a year of change for my garden, and for me too, actually. I always find myself reflecting on the past year in autumn, rather than at new year. I think it’s because the gardening season is coming to an end, and most plants are going into dormancy. Perhaps this is the time of year when all gardeners get a bit reflective. I blame Keats.

Last autumn, I decided to gently dip my toes back in the water to do a few odd days of supply teaching. Before I knew it, I was spending two to three days a week, teaching a class of wonderful four year olds. The last time I was teaching, I was in the very deepest pit of depression, paralysed by crippling anxiety about how I was failing at everything, wondering if everyone would be better off without me. I left the profession under a bit of a cloud, as I saw it, and began to doubt whether I would ever be able to return to it. Those feelings are mostly behind me now, thankfully.

To my delight, I realised that, yes, there is still a teacher in me, and I do love being in the classroom. I successfully dispelled my demons. But I also realised that I love my new life gardening, and creating designs for other people. I so missed having the time to work with plants and getting outside, in contact with soil and wildlife. And I found it really hard to find time to write this blog. So, this school year, I am back working full time as a gardener and garden designer, and I’m very content.

My garden, too, has seen lots of changes in the past year. We took down two enormous Norway maple trees that dominated the south side of the garden, giving our neighbours much more sun, and hopefully saving me hours of work weeding out tree seedlings each spring. I turned forty in the summer, which felt ‘eek’ in some indefinable way that I haven’t quite fathomed. My lovely family all chipped in to buy me a birthday present: my first ever greenhouse, and I couldn’t love it more. Our other neighbours are constructing a new design in their garden, so some large shrubs and trees on their side of the north fence have come down, letting lots more light into the shady side of our garden. And we need to replace our rotten, ivy-covered fence, which got badly damaged in a storm, so will lose even more greenery soon.

The garden feels brighter and more open, which is good. But it also feels less enclosed and private, which is less good. So I’ve got some thinking to do about how to bring that feeling back. I have planted lots of new shrubs this year, which in time will give the borders more height. In time, the new Lilac, Cotinus, Sambucus, Dogwoods and Viburnum will look wonderful. And climbers on the new fences will help – I’m thinking of planting a Passionfruit vine and maybe an Akebia quinata (Chocolate vine).

This is, of course, the nature of gardening. Nothing stays the same, and things are always changing. The knowledge that everything in your garden will continue to grow and evolve builds one’s resilience, and is surprisingly reassuring.

For now, though, I’m enjoying the newness of autumn, which has just landed here in Norfolk. Everything is soggy, the mornings are misty, water droplets cling to spiders’ webs, and the leaves are turning and falling. Our chimney has been swept and the logs delivered. I’m looking forward to cosy evenings spent in front of the wood burner. There are a few garden jobs still to do – I’ve got bulbs to plant for spring, sweet peas, garlic and broad beans to sow. Apart from that, there isn’t much to do until next spring, other than watching the garden descend into beautiful decay.

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