I recently wrote a post which was, I thought, perhaps unfair to Charles.
So I thought I would ask if I had been, and discuss whose fault it all really is. Here is some of the discussion:
I was perhaps a bit unfair to you, portraying you as the most critical of us when it comes to our Veddw garden walks. It made me realise though that I do, I really do manage to feel responsible for almost everything that goes wrong out there.
The weather, I hear you cry? Well, yes, in so far as if something suffers from the weather I tend to think I shouldn’t have planted whatever it is that is suffering, that I’ve made a misjudgement. Plant disease? Well, pretty much the same: I should use robust plants. The dead yew in the hedges? I should have drained the pool! The avenue of trees that started suffering from who knows what? The wrong choice of tree, or maybe I planted them badly. Or it was daft to plant them in the meadow. Or something.
Sometimes it’s obvious that I should have done better – as in the hedge yews. But when it’s just something like not enough surviving cyclamen, or a vetch getting away into the ornamental grasses, I rarely actually identify what I did wrong. I just feel very uncomfortable and a bit guilty.
So I do take your critical (of the garden and its contents) comments and opinions hard.
And – perhaps it’s easier for you to give them when they aren’t things you are actually directly responsible for? If it’s a weedy path – do you feel bad? That’s your thing, the paths. But if it’s a dying plant – what then? What do you think?
I know that you suffer this burden of responsibility and I also know that no amount of reassurance that I may try and make makes any headway in undermining or changing that. (Anne: You could try more reassurance and ̶p̶r̶a̶i̶s̶e̶ encouragement, just to see???)
The roots of this were firmly planted when we came here because this was your project, your dream. To leave London and to find land to make a garden where you could fulfil your dreams and ambitions. I knew you wanted this so much that staying in London (which was what I had wanted to do at the time – though I have never regretted leaving) wasn’t really an option.
And even though I agreed to go, my first choice wasn’t even to come here, but to find a place in Derbyshire where I had friends and knew and loved the landscape. Again I have no regrets that we came to Wales and to our particular location with Bristol on our doorstep – a city I enjoyed living in when I was a student. I really had no idea of just how ambitious you were going to be for the garden or indeed that the garden would provide you with a new career as a writer. Or that the garden itself would prove to be so special.
Weedy paths. Yes, my job. Do I feel bad if I am late to sort it out. No! It’s just a task I’ll get around to eventually. A dying or wilting plant? It depends on the circumstances but I don’t assume it’s through your neglect.
I do wonder though whether having been initially responsible for the garden is enough to explain the current weight I experience? I think some of it is not about you, but about the plants and place itself – about what we owe to them. I know I can be ruthless and rip out the failures – I love a fresh new project – but mostly we are trying to give things what they need to thrive. And a lack of thrive tells me I am failing.
My biggest requirement of the project is that it should be exciting and beautiful. Preferably everywhere and every day. When it is, I want to share it with you and the world and somehow celebrate it. And I’m always up against a world basically saying ‘so what? Every garden is lovely.’ So I do hope always that you are enjoying it.
I wonder why you find it so very hard to get rid of failures? There’s no pleasure in things looking horrible. The Turkish Hazel languished for far too long and getting rid of blighted box has often been like extracting your teeth.
I think I just find it very hard to give up on things that I have had a big hand in growing and nurturing for years. Ripping out the Box topiary “egg cups” in the Veg Garden was such a wrench – I had grown those plants from next to nothing to (often admired) shapes.
And the Turkish Hazels I had carefully encouraged into their mop heads and always enjoyed the results (when they were healthy). It’s hard to give up on something you’ve spent a long time nurturing. I don’t think it’s difficult to understand it being hard to give up on things like this.
But when things have gone really horrid, it perhaps ought to be easier to get rid of them? These things do tend to sit around, confronting me with my sense of failure. But if you really are addicted to hanging on perhaps this a good sign for my decrepit old age??
Well, you know:
“There is beauty in extreme old age
Do you fancy you are elderly enough?
There’s a fascination frantic
In a ruin that’s romantic;
Do you think you are sufficiently decayed?”
“To the matter that you mention
I have given some attention
And I think I am sufficiently decayed ” * (already)
I thought it was just a female, wife, mother thing. That we are responsible for everything running properly. Maybe my upbringing and background? So you feeling responsible for all in the garden makes perfect sense.
It could be just that, if we are allowed any gender differences now?
Great marriage counseling, Anne! My husband and I just had our 30th anniversary and this discussion seems a very familiar one!
How wonderful to have a man that can discuss emotional undercurrents, and discuss them kindly. If your garden lacks careful nurturing, it appears that your relationship does not. I’m jealous!
I do know how incredibly lucky I am – he’s amazing. (But don’t tell him – he might decide to see how well he might be appreciated elsewhere!)
This is brilliant – and fascinating. Though we go back and forth on the Rant between writers and readers in comments and posts, we are never discussing our experience with the same garden, merely a similar experience. And…a great deal of us do not garden with our spouses in the same way that you two do, so the discussion is half illuminating, half voyeuristic.
I think I agree with Tibs that you can’t discount the element of motherhood, fostering, care, etc… that may be playing a role here. I share those feelings of yours (to my extreme discomfort). In fact, I’ve just come in from a ‘very uncomfortable and a bit guilty’ walk round things, which is always exacerbated by the winter, so this post was needed tonic. How to free oneself is the question, to which I can only think: more staff gardeners. Well, one at least. 🙂
Maybe we need to know whether there are men who persecute themselves this way. And, more important – how to stop doing it ourselves?!
Having garden help doesn’t help with this – you simply begin to feel responsible for them and whether you have been clear enough/reasonable in what you ask/too demanding……
I think you should look to Scott Beuerlein….guilt, angst, etc. sometimes bleed from his posts! Talk about self-persecution..the poor man. On a different note, having a public garden puts an extra impetus to keep it looking “perfect”. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You know gardens are a process, never a finished product. If a garden becomes a “product” it’s no longer a garden in my opinion, it’s another theme park or entertainment center. From the photos you show, I would say yours and Charles’ is definitely NOT a theme park!!! Maybe someday I’ll get to Wales…
You are right, of course, though this process is also a living thing, full of other living things and therefore quite a responsibility. And despite what re wilders might like to think, it needs care to maintain its diversity.
I do hope you reach us one day and are not too dismayed by how unlike a theme park we are!
I love this intimate look into your garden and your garden life. Tending a plot of land over a period of time is a constant lesson in responsibility and resilience and a sometimes brutal exercise in learning to let go — crucial skills when it comes to navigating life.
True – but I’m now of an age when I should have acquired those skills navigating life and be able to apply them to my garden, perhaps.
We have a very tidy solution. Everything wrong with the garden is my fault. Everything else wrong in life is hers. I say “we”, but to be precise, “we” really have yet to discuss this out loud.
That’s a good bargain, but it might need ratifying sometime or the day might come when she tells you it’s the other way round and what you going to do about it?? (whatever it is that’s wrong.)
Wonderful back and forth. The former social worker in you comes out out. Deliberate and compassionate.
That stuff gets bred out of social workers these days, but fortunately he came with it built in.