A New Year…

I vividly remember, this time last year, walking over the little stone bridge across the stream in our new garden, upon our return from the Falklands. I remember just standing there, looking, and then my eyes welling up and a couple of tears rolling down my face. It seemed I had got over having to leave the penguins behind; these were tears of overwhelming, happy wonderment.

The view from our sitting room, the day we moved in (if you look closely you can see two foot tall weeds growing in the cracks in the paving on the right of the window)

We’d moved into the house the previous June. It was love at first sight for the garden and me (I do hope the garden felt the same way), yet it wasn’t a completely obvious choice to many. Gardening and non-gardening friends alike, almost all walked round our new space with us, chatting about anything but what was in front of them and concluding with words such as ‘potential’ and ‘lovely’, used in the future, rather than present, tense. Australian friends clearly did feel something for the vivid, emerald greenness and the history of the place, but British ones, I think, saw nettles and more nettles and quietly wondered why I hadn’t yet put any real plants in.

Trees thrived in our garden, but underneath them was a sea of weeds

It was true, from June to December 2017, there was little to see but grass, trees and nettles. Nettles had pretty much taken over every square inch that wasn’t mown, leaving a somewhat monochrome monoculture of a ‘garden’. I loved it anyway; I genuinely wondered if I could love it any more than I already did. In fact, I was quite worried to start gardening here. Would I make it worse? Would it lose its magic? 

Fortunately, as all good horticulturists know, the number one rule of gardening is not to do anything in a new (to you) garden for at least one year. Phew. The pressure was off. Paul and I also travelled extensively in those first six months in the house, so I just enjoyed the odd snatched moment walking around the garden, looking to see what was new each time. The changes mostly revolved around the increasing height of the nettles, aside from a short, but very pretty, display of autumn colours. It was fair to say that high summer didn’t bring a huge number of flowers to bear.

One of the few flowers in our garden….on a Catalpa tree

And so that January morning, walking over the bridge in to our woodland, was something of a revelation. I’d accepted by then, that nothing less robust than trees had survived the lack of nettle-pulling over the past few years, yet magically, whilst we had been away over the New Year, the frosts had arrived and flattened every single nettle across each of our four acres. And there, where the nettles had previously stood, were thousands upon thousands of little white jewels.

The unbelievable sight of a carpet of snowdrops, where nettles had once stood

It felt nothing less than a miracle. I’d not even been able to step foot in the woodland since moving in; the nettles were as high as me and completely covering the bridge and as far as I could see beyond. And yet lying underneath them, in wait, were all these beautiful bulbs, patiently waiting for their moment when the leaves were down and the nettles flattened, to poke their noses up through the earth and feel the sun on their faces.

I stood there, unable to quite believe that this woodland was mine, that all these snowdrops, were mine. This was my garden; a part of my garden I was seeing for the very first time.

Harry, our resident hare, does a particularly great job of edging the lawn for us

Those next six months happily continued in the same, excited vein. The winter aconites, the crocuses, the daffodils; the scented honeysuckle, witch hazel and Philadelphus; the ferns unfurling and the primroses popping out from underneath fallen leaves; surprises everywhere I looked, week after week. I had a deep sense of dread of June coming around. From June, there would be no more surprises. There would be no more wonderment. There would be no more tears of elation. I counted down the weeks until it all became predictable and known, willing them not to pass.

Yet, amazingly, they didn’t pass. Of course June arrived and went, but the surprises, the wonderment and the elation continue each and every day in the garden. Finally, I dare to believe that they will, in fact, never end. Every day in my happy place brings me even more joy than the last and across four acres of varying degrees of wildness, I know there will never be a day with no surprises. You just have to open your eyes.

Looking out through a gap in our nettles, you can see the neighbouring sheep

Since June 2017, I’ve spent every second I can in the garden. Nettles and me have become the closest of friends. And that’s meant that writing my blog has been put on the back burner. I’ve just had too much enthusiasm for ‘doing’ to put down my spade and pick up my laptop. 

But all gardening and no writing makes Janna a dull girl and all of a sudden I’ve got the blogging crave back. I’ve realised I want to capture all this elation my garden provides me with; I want to bottle it in case one day it’s no longer there. And what better way to bottle it than to look, photograph and write about all the things that bring me most joy? Surely, with this focus, even more joy will arise.

Wild and romantic…or just plain overgrown?

My plan is to write monthly. To capture the most special moments for me over each month and put them securely down on paper. All of a sudden I can’t wait to get writing about it, just as much as I can’t wait to get pulling nettles as the sun comes up each day. I’m hoping it will be a very special reminder for me and something to help me reflect on progress as I develop the garden over the coming years. If you’d like to come along for the ride, I’d love you to join me, too.

The vegetable garden back in 2017, a little worse for wear

When my parents first saw our new garden, they couldn’t quite believe what we had done. How on earth were we ever going to manage to look after four acres? And not just look after, but renovate, and get back to some kind of garden, from the nettle plantation standing tall in front of them. I could tell they both thought it would all end in tears, as the realisation came over me that I had bitten off way more than I could chew. 

They were right about the tears, of course, but, I think, underestimated my love for the space and the dedication I would have to nurturing it in every second I could spare. And I’m really very happy to have tears when they are tears that remind me how lucky I am and that reflect the joy our garden brings. I can’t wait to share each and every corner of it with you. 

A blurry hare, disappearing off when I went to introduce myself. The weeds along, and behind, the garage reflect the nature of our 2017 garden

18 thoughts on “A New Year…

  1. Adriana says:

    You live in such a wonderful place and house Janna that I knew you had more mettle than to wilt over a few acres of nettle! Puns aside – when we visited I saw a wonderland that I would’ve been so happy to get my hortticultural hands into, had I been 20 years younger. Gardens make us dream and create. I can’t think of a better way to spend your time. Your post reminds me so much of the feelings I had when we found what I term as our first ‘real’ garden; rushing out every day to see what new treasure had popped up out of the soil — and it didn’t disappoint. Your words made that feeling return and you are right to think that your feelings and attitudes to gardens change when you age but that excitement is there, always, I think. I am looking forward to your monthly blogs – your words are always beautiful and inspiring.

    • jannaschreier says:

      It is incredible how much pleasure gardens can bring, but also how little downside comes with them. I think it is that ‘dreaming’ that is such a powerful thing, but also the fresh air and hard physical exercise always makes you feel great. It’s lovely to share these thoughts with others who have experienced the same euphoria! Thank you for your encouragement, as always.

  2. Kim Woods Rabbidge says:

    Janna, how lovely to see you again. I’ve been wondering what you’re up to and have missed your blog.
    Sounds like your (rather extensive) little patch of enchantment is transforming wonderfully under your guidance. I look forward to your monthly updates. 🌿
    Kim Woods Rabbidge

    • jannaschreier says:

      My little patch of enchantment entirely sums it up! And I always think back to how right you were that it would be all-consuming; I hadn’t quite anticipated just how addictive being out there would be. I do hope you are enjoying your new garden. Lovely to hear from you.

  3. Louise says:

    I for one, can’t wait for you to share your joy and wonders! It fills me with joy that I will once again read your beautiful pieces of writing. I, too, have missed those blogs of gardens throughout the world but this will be a very special one I’m sure because it will evoke feelings that come straight from all your work in your “little” 4 acre paradise. And may I say, I see wild and romantic! What a wonderful sight to behold those gorgeous little drops of white covering the woodland. Must have lifted your spirits after all those nettles. Looking forward to opening the email once a month to what it holds for you. Love to you from afar.

    • jannaschreier says:

      I thought you might see “wild and romantic”, Louise! We are very aligned on all things gardens. Thank you for your very kind words. I want to blog again, regardless of whether anyone reads it or not, but it’s so, so much more fun to be able to share the process with like-minded people. Thank you for so reliably being there.

  4. Suzanne says:

    Happy New Year Janna; and happy you do sound. It’s wonderful to hear from you and about your ‘treasure chest’ of a garden. It seems you’ve hit the jackpot…fabulous! I’ve missed your newsy posts so thank you for sharing your wonderful gardening adventure and taking us along for the ride. XX

    • jannaschreier says:

      Happy New Year, Suzanne. I hope you (and your garden) are coping with your very, very hot summer. Thankfully you have chosen all the right plants to best cope with the conditions. It must be wonderful to look out on your little oasis from the shade of your verandah. A slight contrast to me, in my full length thermals, looking out on my frosty patch this morning! But both as delightful as the other.

  5. Susie Craig says:

    Janna I love hearing about your new garden and am green with envy at such space. Here in Brisbane we are battling extreme heat. The snowdrops look divine.
    I look forward to reading your blogs about how you deal with all the nettles.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thank you Susie. It must be very hard gardening in the weather you have been having. I know I often felt I had no time for anything other than watering, watering, watering in Australia (particularly as I always seemed to be planting). But aren’t the challenges we have – whichever they are – part of the attraction and addiction of gardening? I’m sure it wouldn’t be half as interesting without them.

  6. Nicola says:

    What a really lovely and most welcome surprise Janna. I’m so glad you’ve come back to writing and I’m looking forward to the stories. I think a woman and her garden is no ordinary relationship, and your writing supports my theory. The snowdrops gave me goosebumps!

    • jannaschreier says:

      That’s really kind, Nicola, thank you. I certainly feel things for this garden that I’ve never felt before. I just feel so connected with the wildness of it. It really is incredibly special to me. So glad to be able to share it with you.

  7. Barbara says:

    Oh, so lovely to have you back. Only yesterday I mentioned your blog in Micheal McCoy’survey. I will be looking forward to monthly news from your garden. You are such a great writer, I just adore your descriptions of your gardening adventures.
    As for nettles, some came up in my pots in Perth, Western Australia. People were so jealous that I can grow them here. I cut them back and make a nice nettle tea for my baby plants. Happy gardening and nettle fighting.
    Barbara, anothe Aussie fan.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Hello Barbara! It’s so lovely hearing from people I haven’t swapped messages with in ages. I did Michael’s survey too – I think I’m flattered you thought of me when you were answering his questions (even if it was to say don’t do it like that!). Amazing that you can grow nettles in Perth pots – they definitely grow best here in the dampest, most fertile soil. You clearly have very green fingers. Thank you for your very kind words.

  8. Pat Webster says:

    What a treat that you are writing again. I can only imagine your joy, seeing that expanse of snowdrops. I look forward to your monthly pieces, and sharing your excitement as your garden grows.

    • jannaschreier says:

      You are lovely, Pat! So much more fun when you can share the excitement with people who have been there, done that and who really understand the feelings you have. Thanks so much for joining me.

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