Here on Pig Row, spring has arrived with the fanfare of bobbing yellow heads, those most wonderful and magical redeemers from the depths of winter, daffodils. They adorn the lane outside my house, carpet the roads down to the main junction and dance along on the verges all the way to town. I remind myself not to look out the back window, stare out at the quarter acre I inherited sixteen months ago.
We moved in as the worst winter on record struck, in a deluge of rain that turned to sleet that ran to snow, that wailed and banked against the front door as we manoeuvred in an oversized settee through an undersized door.
We were snowed in for three weeks.
My wife was nine months pregnant and living the dream had left us broke. We lived on toast for one week, too scared to dig the car out, too frozen to find a shop. Since then we learnt there are no shops by foot, living the dream means you can’t always have that high street at hand. We were told that we moved at the worst economical time; the old house has yet to sell.
It all pales into insignificance when you see those first daffodils.
That is why I can’t bring myself to look out the back window. There are no cheery yellow heads waiting there, no reminder that winter is over, back there winter is still king and there are only hues of brown. This I will have to remedy this year. It has taken me sixteen months of digging to get to this point, to be able to look out my back window and see good earth, full of muck and possibility where before there was the dreaded municipal laurel. If you are new to gardening or a dab hand, I ask only one thing of you do not plant laurel. This impenetrable laurel had bullied its way over two thirds of the garden, all uphill, that is the thuggish nature of it. It had grown to mammoth proportions leaving only a narrow path between them. The first summer here was spent digging it out, foot by foot; inch by inch it was torn out and burned. As I write this, the last of the roots are burning on a bonfire; I and my neighbours, my wife, and my baby son are planning to go out there later and throw a party, such is the hatred that was felt for this hedge, this behemoth of car parks, out of town malls and bypass verges. It does not belong in a garden.
Pig Row had few plants left because of the laurel. There is an aging Elder Tree covered in moss and saved from the chainsaw. It is, I have been informed by my wife, incredibly unlucky to cut one down – witchcraft abounds their trunks and roots. I saved it because it was the only remaining structure in the quarter acre.
That is the difference between my wife and I.
It has taken sixteen months of negotiation. Arguments in the kitchen, heated talks in the lounge to the background ramblings of Iggle Piggle, whispers at midnight in the bedroom as the baby slept. These ‘talks’ were all about what the garden would do for us as a family; how it would look and more importantly how much it would cost. This is a common problem for all gardeners. Do not believe TV shows or Chelsea. Gardens are not a quick fix, they are not a trip to a DIY store, they are not easily pasted over or painted. Gardens take time because they are an extension of you and not an outdoor room. From the start, it was clear that Pig Row would have to have a fruit and herb garden, an allotment, an office and play area, an eating area (because when summer comes, when those few days without rain descend we all want to eat outdoors), several seats (I am naturally lazy), a woodland belt for the wonderful daffodils and a meadow for I have, and always will, hate lawns (because I am too lazy to mow them). These columns will deal with my life in the garden and the tasks I do from week to week at Pig Row, for I can only ever write about my garden and what I plant there.