It came as no surprise that my two weeks of holiday were wet. It is autumn in London after all. However, having secured two weeks off despite a deal was reaching its climax, it would be churlish to complain about the weather. In any event, a little rain never stopped anybody and I am certainly not one of those Austen or Brontë heroines who is gripped by a fever at the first sign of the heavens opening. So undeterred I slipped on the boots and cagoule and faced the elements as well as the challenge of a garden that had grown wilder still during my eight months away. My first objective was to tackle what we jokingly call the front garden.
The previous owners of our house must have had an absolute abhorrence of natural light as their planting strategy succeeded only in keeping the outside world and sunlight out of the ground floor. A mistake when the ground floor is a lower ground floor! As a result our two by eight foot raised bed boasted three square metres of railings covered in clematis which in all our time there could only muster three lilac flowers; a leyland cypress that had long since deprived the soil of all its nutrients; a tall but puny nondescript tree which given another season would undermine the bricks and mortars; and a carpet of weeds that encroached on every remaining square inch of soil.
A wet morning, two changes of gloves and numerous bin bags later I had managed to turn the plot into a blank canvass, well bar the Leyland Cypress which is a two-man job. I withdrew with weary satisfaction to the study and stared out at the potential and best of all, despite the grey day, the light. As I settled down to a warming cup of tea, I ordered plants, bulbs and seeds that would populate this precious reclaimed soil.
Whilst the back garden will be devoted to vegetables, soft fruits and a panoply of white, pink, purple and blue flowers, I am planning a riot of yellows and oranges as well as stimulating smells for the front. Pots of rosemary and mint will provide edible scents that enliven the spirit on cold mornings. A rose-bush such as Fragrant Delight or Dawn Chorus together with some gorgeous honeysuckle will replace the extracted clematis and welcome visitors with their gentle scent and enticing colours. And russet and umber winter flowering pansies and a mix of orange and pink hearted narcissus will carry us through winter and into early spring with a splash of colour.
No doubt as the seasons roll by I shall sow summer blooms such as alstromeria, dahlia and zinnias to ensure ongoing colour throughout 2011 (and an array of natural blooms to test the potential for seasonal home-grown bouquets) but in the meantime, I sit back and enjoy the products of my labour as well as a childlike delight of having got wet and muddy playing in the rain.