You should have been here last week

August 25, 2010 § 14 Comments

“You should have been here last week.”

If you’re a gardener, you’ve said this a hundred times to visitors, even though — after the twentieth time — you know how clichéed and ridiculous it sounds. When you’ve been saying it for a few years, you’ve got to the point where you’ve tried it out in so many modes, from self-deprecatory to funny-voice, that you’re right back to being sincere again. Because, really, the garden is always better in retrospect, or in the future.

Or rather, it is when you find yourself looking at it through other people’s eyes. All the holes in the planting, the weeds and the other horrors rise up and spoil the view. But the gratifying thing — in my patch, anyway — is that when the visitors leave, the garden settles down again and stops being inadequate. When there’s no-one around to judge, when it’s just me and the garden, I’m content. And I suspect I’m not the only one who feels this way. There are gardeners who garden so that other people can see their efforts, and there are those who don’t. I’m one of the latter: one of those who like their space best when there is no-one else in it. For us, tending a plot of ground is a solitary pastime.

Except that it is not. We are never alone in a garden. There are birds and bees, and sometimes butterflies, and other interesting things such as worms and woodlice. For me, these creatures are as important as the plants that grow here. I try to garden as much for them as I do to make a pretty picture or a productive patch for myself. The longer I garden, the more I feel that the space outside my door doesn’t really belong to me, but to the gazillion other beings that inhabit it. I know that I’m the one in charge, but if the garden were the territory of only me and the other people who live in this house, it would be a pretty dull place. If there were no opportunistic robin following me around, or no surprise frogs in the long grass, or no fat worms pulling the mulch underground, I wouldn’t have half as good a time out here.

It’s not that I don’t like visitors: I do, but they sometimes make me feel a little on edge and over-protective of my garden. And I start babbling the “you should have been here last week” excuse. But, to tell the truth, I’m quite glad that they weren’t.


He-She lives here too (they’re hermaphrodites, you know)

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§ 14 Responses to You should have been here last week

  • Congratulations on a great start. I think that we always notice all the problems in our garden, and in ourselves for that matter. No one else seems to notice them, good thing, lol.


  • lialeendertz says:

    Hooray! What beautiful pictures, and fine wordage too. Well done on the starting a blog thing. Will be looking forward to more…x


  • Ryan says:

    Hi Jane,

    I don’t think you could have put it better. I share your sentiments exactly. My garden is my personal Oasis. Okay, it may not look like anything special to visitors but it’s not there to have opinions flung at it or to be enjoyed by anyone else. It’s a space in which I can grow my loved plants, encourage nature and lose many hours, this happens more frequently than I’d care to admit.

    I often hear myself saying that dreaded phrase and often it’s aptly used as gardens change so rapidly and you will always miss out on something.

    Great start to the blog and I look forward to reading more from you.



  • MarkD says:

    Howodd, have jut written ‘gazillion’ in a piece a second ago…must be the word o’ the mo.

    Welcome to blogland, lovely stuff x


  • Kate Bradbury says:

    Very excited that you’re blogging now. Love the title. I keep telling people ‘you should have been in my garden in May’ as it looked quite lovely then. Has looked terrible since! x


  • Naomi Slade says:

    I agree with you entirely – I like my surprise frogs (and even the caterpillars, but don’t tell anyone), but always feel inadequate under scrutiny. Not helped by the time my partner’s colleague gave him a lift home, he spent the whole time telling him what I did. They got here and the chap looked at the front garden and said ‘really?!’. I can only imagine the tone of surprise *sigh*

    Was poking about the web and found you randomly…Good luck!



  • patientgardener says:

    Welcome to the blogasphere. Lovely to see photo of your garden and it has confirmed for me the way I want to go with mine, having a crisis of decision and direction at present


  • James A-S says:

    Okay. We’ve seen the flowers now show us the Powers. I know you can leap high buildings with a single bound.
    Lovely blog.
    I never let other people round this garden as then I never have to say I’m sorry.


  • Simon says:

    Cracking blog Jane and do you know, I agree with you 95% (well no-one’s perfect).
    95% of me doesn’t want or need opinions, plaudits or the visitors who see fit to offer them. There is however 5% which wants another viewpoint. Someone to question the what, why & wherefore & give complacency a liitle nudge.


  • Jane Powers says:

    Thanks for all the comments – and for actually reading the thing. I appreciate the warm welcome!


  • Ciaran Burke says:

    Well done Jane, more hours at the computer! Blogging is fun, but watch out, it can be addictive too, just like gardening! – Ciaran


  • Jane,

    This looks lovely — good luck with blogging, and I hope you enjoy! This post makes me think again about why I want people to visit (and I think I do want, eventually, for my space to good enough that people will want to visit) my garden under some kind of open gardens scheme — because there’s nobody like a gardener who can look around and understand what it’s taken to arrive at a point, and how many mistakes came before it.

    I’m reading “Scotland for gardeners” by Kenneth Cox and your post reminds me of the bit I’ve only just read. (let me apologize in advance for referencing Camus and existentialism) Camus said “the struggle itself is enough to fill a man’s heart” in regards to Sisyphus and his endless task of pushing a heavy rock up a hill, and watching it roll down. Of gardening, Cox writes of how the gardener is never finished but is always contending greenfly, weeds, plants outgrowing their space, and on and on.

    “Gardeners just push that stone up the hill, over and over again,” Cox says. “The best we can do is have the occasional rest, while admirers come to praise the shape of our rock, the post in which we push it and the perfectly balanced route or what we are worn down the hillside. It is simultaneously glorious and futile.”

    Sheila Averbuch – Stopwatch Gardener


  • curiousfarmer says:

    Beautiful photo of your garden!


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