Last month in our Potpourri magazine we ran a competition: write 200 words on the theme of Gardening in the Era of Lockdown and win a £100 Genus gift voucher. A big thanks to everyone who sent in their contributions, we had a wonderful time reading them all and it was difficult to select a winner. However, we felt that the contribution from Anne Maddox best captured the mood of the time. Congratulations Anne!
This is what she wrote:
My younger self, always at war with time, would be horrified if she could see the lockdown gardener I’ve become: the woman who lives in raggedy clothes all day and who twists her hair into a style that would make Medusa tut, bolting her breakfast and snapping off the radio’s gloomy news before racing out into the blessed sunshine to water the pots of richly-hued tulips on the terrace and to prick out the burgeoning seedlings of tomatoes and zinnias in the greenhouse. For in these dark days, she’s been given a precious gift, that of time. Time to reflect and pray and hope that good will come of this crisis so that medical advances will be made, and that kindliness will prevail on the other side. Time too to mulch and weed, prune and feed and to gaze into the azure, unpolluted blue, and smile as the blackbird and robin tussle over the mealworms I throw, only for them to be outwitted by the nimbler blue tit snatching the prize. I stand in the freshness of the morning, showered with birdsong, and I am so grateful, regretting only that others cannot share this moment. ANNE MADDOX
We have also included a couple of other entries that we felt were particularly enjoyable and we're sending a voucher for £25 to each of them:
Our mutual understanding deepens during our morning check-in. You notice the daily development of my shoots and buds. I’ve come to understand the kind of night you’ve had through your intensity of gaze and quality of breathing.
I wait to see what job will pique your interest. You pot up a self-seeded shoot, unsure if it’s a rose or bramble.
We overhear the neighbours’ forays into vegetable growing. They discuss anxieties over the fence: at times a relief, sometimes just what you were trying to avoid.
I host new happenings: dusty jobs; cutting hair. I watch you progress from clumsy to refined as you experiment with keep-fit movements. Your tendency to over-concentrate is disrupted by fluctuations in warmth and breeze, sounds and textures.
Our struggle to self-regulate is shared. You take yourself outside to reset. I observe the care taken to make space for all: ensuring emerging plants get enough light amongst the bluebells, whilst allowing others to die back. I hold you as you go overboard, ready to pounce on my imperfections. Then pause. You gather the strength to allow me to find my own balance.
I shade your eyes as you lie down to watch the passing clouds. KATHERINE LOUISE
And from JIM WAITS:
This has been a period of creation, observation and reflection. Our garden is small but requires some work, weeding and staking, and weeding again! We plan for year-round displays and want wildlife-friendly plants, and buy clematis, climbing roses and summer and winter-flowering honeysuckles to clamber over the new trellis. We choose bee-friendly dahlias to last until the frosts burn their leaves.
The forsythia and snowdrops have faded; the daffodils and tulips have bloomed but need dead-heading. The alliums, bleeding-hearts and osteospermum love the sunshine and the honey-bush has a flourish of flowers for the first time; all seem to be ignored by the butterflies that flutter by haphazardly.
Swifts and martins signal the arrival of Spring. We sit in the arbour to enjoy the sun but the wren reprimands us for being too close. Goldfinches gorge on the feeder, scattering sunflower hearts for blackbirds and pigeons. Robins and tits sprint in-and-out obviously feeding their young. Ants farm aphids on the dwarf cardoon. Newly hatched spiders are frightened by the touch of a breath; will they disperse before the sparrow finds them?
Life is full of beauty.