Like many women, I grew up loving the children's novel "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett (and the 1993 Broadway musical version) but it wasn't until I became an adult that I really began to resonate with the themes of renewal and new life that spring into the hitherto wintry life of young Mary.
I was pleased to find "The Secret Garden" on the shelves of the 200-year-old house I am currently sharing with the English family that has invited me into their home for this year. (This family consists of husband and wife and three young adult children, two of whom still live at home and are about my age). As I read the story once again, I wondered at the huge amount of work that Mary and her friends Dickon and Colin put into reviving the walled garden high on the moors. Is English garden so different from American gardening?
I am delighted to report that I am about to find out.
Pasture House, the name of the house where I live, is surrounded by a very large, green yard with huge flowerbeds. Here in England a yard is referred to as a garden, as well. ED (or "English dad", as I call the patriarch of the family I live with) takes care of the garden and it's truly lovely, but since it's so large, big swaths of beds are unattended. This weekend I was craving fresh basil and tomatoes, and suddenly had an idea. I asked ED if I might have a space for a few herbs, and he was happy to oblige, setting aside a decent-sized patch of earth for me. On Sunday my "English sis" Julia drove me to a garden centre, and, of course, I got a little overenthusiastic with seed selection, purchasing several different herbs, four varieties of tomato seeds, several vegetables and even, per Julia's suggestion, some melon seeds. We bought a large bag of compost (pronounced "kahmpahst"), a mint plant, plastic seed trays and a few other essentials.
Then we came home and, when ED inquired after my purchases, I had to face the music.
"Aha," he said, thumbing through the multitude of seed packets. "I think we're going to need a bit more space."
"Um, I got a little carried away," I admitted sheepishly. But then I suddenly thought of the years I'd spent as a home and garden writer for the northern suburbs. If there's one thing I know after writing myriad gardening stories, it's that container gardening is all the rage.
"I can do them in pots," I told ED. "We can grow all of the herbs in pots and ring them around the terrace. That gets plenty of sun."
ED agreed. He also told me to feel free to use the greenhouse and its contents, a somewhat neglected structure at the far end of the lawn. And today when I creaked open the door, I was delighted to discover piles of pots, twine and other handy tools buried under leaves and sticks that had fallen through the missing panes. I felt a bit like Mary, cracking open the door of the Secret Garden. What treasures await me!
Updates to follow.