A Game Of Chess With Mother Nature

Patience is a virtue. Not one I’m very comfortable with, I’m afraid, but as a budding gardener, I’m having to learn anyway.

About 3 months ago we moved into our new house. After tending to my mother-in-laws garden for a couple of years, finally, I get my own! A garden where I can decide what goes in, and where it will go. No one to tell me what to do, plant or move things while I’m away. Well, not quite: moving into this new house, with this lovely garden, I am facing a harsh lesson in patience: I have just stepped into somebody else’s game of chess with Mother Nature. I walked in with my game plan, sure, but what’s on the board right now looks nothing like what I need to roll out my strategy: the previous owners certainly loved their garden, and it was put together very thoughtfully, with a little lawn, a pond, a terraced sun-trap with a pergola, and a couple of secret pathways at the back. Interestingly though, not many plants are, well, planted. Most of the garden is in pots. 53 pots to be precise, and as many plants that may or may not grow, that I may or may not be able to identify, that I may or may not want to keep. And that’s the problem: I could just hire a skip, clear the lot, and start with a blank canvas, roll out my ideas and get it over and done with. But what if, in one of those pots, lies a really beautiful flower that I would obviously keep if I knew it was there.

So here I am, sitting at the table, across from Mother Nature, waiting for her to make a move. As spring finally knocks on the door, we resume a game that was abandoned by somebody else a while back. I have to somehow adapt and enforce my plan (complete with the clematis, nerium oleander, fig tree, lavender, strawberries and all the other plants I had in mind) within a frame that was decided long before I sat there. Mother Nature plays a daffodil in a corner; I start removing a dead tree stump in what will be the herbs and strawberries patch. Buds appear on what looks like a cherry tree – bingo! I wanted one of those. Dozens of hyacinths show off rich bunches of leaves but fail to bloom; I’ll have to take them all out. As for that beautiful pink-flowering shrub, I have no idea what it is but I’m keeping it too. I plant three pots of tulip bulbs I had forgotten and wait for Mother Nature’s next move. For all I know, this game could last the best part of the next two years, as we slowly live through a whole cycle and discover what this garden has to offer.

Now I have to stay focused and avoid losing sight of what I want. Luckily, there is loads to do to prepare – getting my chessmen in place, I guess. I have sowed my new seeds in the greenhouse. I have also begun clearing the clutter of broken pots, empty compost bags, rusty tools and lose tiles and bricks that add to the unnecessary visual noise that overwhelms you when you look outside. Soon enough (i.e. as soon as I have bought gardening gloves) I will start weeding and cutting back some of the shrubs and trees that look like they just want to take over. Darling-Chéri will have to get started with the lawn-mower and probably help me dig out that reluctant tree stump. We’ll get to grips with the pond’s old-school complicated filter and pump system and maybe even replace it. We’ll also tackle the front garden, where more dead tree stumps very leafy non-flowering bulbs and invading weeds need to be taken care of.

So that’s the new plan – now let’s see how quickly I lose patience and decide to start doing everything at the same time in one go!

By the way, if anyone can help identify the flowers and plants in the pictures, I’d be most grateful!!