It all kicked off at the beginning of June. Of course, I should have realised. I’d mentioned in May that the sheep hadn’t yet begun their Houdini acts, but I also mentioned how dry the ground was. And sillily didn’t put two and two together.
What happens when the land is dry? Well, a couple of things. Firstly, the grass doesn’t grow. Secondly, somewhat unfortunately coinciding with this, the lack of water in the soil means the electric fence doesn’t earth properly. Put together, you have hungry sheepies without containment. Hmmm.
It was the very first day of June. I’d had a busy day working in the garden and was enjoying a long, hot soak in the bath. Closing my eyes, thinking I really should get out, but maybe just a few more minutes, I was brought to by my husband, saying, “Janna”.
Now that might not sound that strange to you, but Paul never calls me ‘Janna’. Something serious was up. He dragged me out of the bath, curiously much less worried about the water dripping everywhere than I was, and over to the window. “Have a look at that.”
I have to say, even considering baby hares, new ponds and broad-bodied chaser dragonflies, I think this has to be the highlight of the garden year so far. We’ve spoken about plants that look so right in their natural environment but could there possibly be a more ‘right’ picture than a few ewes and their lambs casually grazing the lawn. Watching them enjoying our little space was pure heaven. (Admittedly aided by the fact they were nibbling Paul’s lawn and not my flower beds.) We really do need to work on a more permanent sheep arrangement just those few metres closer to home.
The following morning they were back in the fields and, feeling somewhat melancholy for the loss of sheepies, Paul – without any criticism or menace – looked out of the bathroom window and said, “what we’ve really got, is a hay meadow”. Earlier in the year we had quite a lot of low growing flowers in the new ‘wildflower meadow’: cowslips, pink Lamium, daisies, dandelion and speedwell. But now the grass has grown longer, it’s very much a green affair.
I didn’t, at least knowingly, take offense, but clearly something fired me up inside. Because the first job I went out to do that morning, was to sit on the edge of the haha and clear the brome grass from the ‘hay meadow’: I didn’t want it to set seed in quite such vast quantities next year. It was a warm but cloudy day and sadly the garden never feels quite as beautiful without the soft English light bouncing around.
But as I pulled the brome out, I suddenly opened my eyes and looked. Properly looked. And realised it wasn’t just a field of grass. It was an enormously complex and biodiverse patch of meadow, if only you just stopped for a minute.
I admit this may not pass as garden proper, but I defy anyone to tell me these little verdant pockets are not beautiful in their own sweet way. My long-suffering friend tells me she doesn’t think of this as a garden anymore. She said, in her typically beautiful language, “I can’t help feeling it’s now no longer a garden but a whole little world full of flora and fauna, of which you are guardian angel and which you gently nurture”. I almost feel I don’t need a garden (or even non-garden garden), when I have a friend who makes me feel this warm and fuzzy.
And I’d still like you to keep your fingers crossed for flowers in the meadow, but really, it’s not such a big deal. Enjoying the wonder of all these complex beings jostling for space but living, seemingly, quite harmoniously together is quite something in itself. Who’d have thought leaving a lawn to grow for a couple of months would throw up quite such a diverse range of life? And it’s just going to get better each year.
Later that same day, Harry the hare also popped by. He clearly knew we were off to Crete that day as he strutted a particularly unusual – yet fetching – Boeing 737 pose with his ears.
We were off, with Mum and Dad, to see my aunty and uncle who live there, to celebrate a big birthday for Mum. It was hard to pull myself away from the garden, but we had such a wonderful time walking the Cretian hills and generally doing lots of eating, drinking and laughing.
Meanwhile, back at home, baby Harrietta (you’ll remember her from April) isn’t such a baby anymore. And she’s been a bit of a drowned rat this month.
June has rained, rained and rained again. Of course, us gardeners are never happy. We want good weather so we can get on and work outside, but we also crave rain for the plants. And we really did need it.
As well as restoring good health to the plants, the rain also filled the depleting pond and put the stream back into full force again. I don’t think I’ll ever really hate rain again, having lived in Australia.
Looking back through my photos this month, it’s hard to believe the difference in the garden in four short weeks. Our tiny potato plants have grown into towering, flowering monsters, the grass seed we sowed is now a thick, lush lawn and everything has bulked out to fill every available square inch.
But the one thing that has been consistent from start to finish, is the sea of red bordering all the fields around us. I always love driving between the fields along the driveway each day, but I’ve never quite looked forward to it as much as I have these last weeks.
As the breeze picks up, the poppies dance around the ears of spring barley, this way and that way, synchronised, yet carefree. Variations in light bring out differing shades, but despite such delicate paper petals, the poppies have soldiered on through rain, rain, rain or shine.
This month marks two years since we moved into the property and we’ve had fun looking back at a few photos of the garden as was. Though we’ve put so many hours into its restoration, not one of them has felt like work. And after all that ‘play’, it’s simply an added bonus that we have a visual reward unveiling in front of us.
There’s still so much to do and so many dreams to realise, but slowly, slowly, the garden is being liberated and its glory days are within sight once again.