A cross-stitched album with pictures of my first house renovations
This is my first time participating in the Grow Write Guild, which is a creative writing club for people who love to garden hosted by Gayla who says everyone is welcome to participate. Click over to the Grow Write Guild FAQ to learn more about it.
This prompt really struck a chord with me, when does anyone become a gardener? When do they stop being someone who "does" the garden and feel confident enough to give themselves the title of Gardener (notice the capital G that comes with the title!) - I'm not sure, I guess it's something that just grows (sorry) on you, it definitely did for me.
This prompt took me back to memories of my first garden in my first house - I'd had gardens before then, a patch in my parents garden as we grew up and the garden of the first house away from home, but they didn't have the same feeling as the house and garden in Whitehorse Lane, South Norwood which was the first house that had my name on the mortgage.
I bought my three bedroom mid-terraced house in May 1993, to say it needed some work was an understatement.
This was the garden when I moved in in May 1993:
And I think dad and I had already done some work to get the "lawn" more manageable!!
Did owning this garden make me a gardener? Nope, for me it was something that needed to be done to keep the neighbours sweet and to make the most of my house. The garden did infact go beyond the bird bath in the centre of this picture and extend about sixty foot further back. That sixty foot that you can't see, was full of brambles, weeds and rose bushes and goodness knows what else.
Luckily there was a garden shed just outside the back door:
You can see into the kitchen through the open door, the pile of rubble indicates the amount of work needed indoors too.
Much work went into clearing the space - most of it by dad with some help (probably not much) from me at weekends. By September 1994 we were ready to start building a new shed at the (newly found) end of the garden. It's the meccano-like structure you can see at the top of this photo.
The Shed That Dad Built starts to take shape
The shed was a bit of a Heath-Robinson affair and affectionately became known as the "shed that dad built" - it's frame was concreted into the small patio at the end of the garden. I bet the frame is still there (even if the outer shed panels aren't) despite the recent strong winds we've had in the UK!
But look, you can see to the end of the garden! Now the brambles, weeds and roses were being contained to waist level (rather than above head level!) and I remember it being a thankless and never-ending job. I quickly learnt that it wasn't as easy as cutting away what you could see, the roots needed to come out too...
Here's a closer look at the construction work, looking at this picture again some twenty years later (...how can that be?!) I remember the row of breeze blocks we found dug into the garden to raise the central area of the garden - and there was a path either side of the raised area. I can't remember what we did with them, but I do remember moving them around. A lot.
Shed building is serious business!
And here's the finished Shed That Dad Built. And I loved it - we also did the patio too, those darker dots that you can see are upturned bottles inset into the cement. And the old Butlers sink came out of the kitchen...
As was drinking the contents of the bottles...
By April 2000 (and hopefully much before that) the garden was looking a whole lot more "normal" - dad and I had re-turfed the garden and I remember being much more hands-on with this and less worried about the mud (although I still wear gloves to garden), but I was still reliant on dad and on him directing operations.
A normal garden
We'd also added some trellis to the front of the shed, though I don't remember if we planted anything to grow up it; and I added some net curtains to the inside of the shed window as having it bare slightly freaked me out. I'd also bought a very small shed from B&Q to replace the shed just outside the kitchen door (and bizarrely took this with me when I moved in November 2002!)
But did bringing this garden back to life make me a gardener (or even a Gardener)? No, I don't think it did, but it might've sown the seeds (sorry!).
The garden was still something I did. I'd seen first-hand (and experienced the bramble scratches) what happens when a garden is left to its own devices and how much hard work it takes to bring a garden back under control, so I knew I couldn't let that happen. I think over time the pull of gardening was starting to be there, but for me this garden was a maintenance job, not a love affair.
When I started hacking away at this garden I had no tools and knew very little about gardening - I've learnt much along the way and still have my "lady" fork and spade which are very much my tools of choice even today. I also no longer rely on my dad for directions on what to do in the garden (although it's great to have such a knowledgeable resource at my disposal!). Now MOH asks me "is this a weed?" thankfully mostly now before he's pulled the plant in question out! (I'm serious).
Does this make me a gardener? It goes someway along the path, but I'm not sure the journey up until now is complete. In 2002 we moved to our current house in Blackheath, something happened since then and I now consider myself a gardener. For now, I'm going to leave this here and will pick this up again in a future post.