I can’t remember when I would have first helped my parents with their flower and vegetable gardens – but it was at a very young age. I would have learned most things from them, and some bits during my school holidays when I’d help my grandparents on their allotment.

Andrew picking peas in 1986
Me picking peas in 1986: Clearly back when photography was so slow you might nod off. That colander was also used as a template for my haircuts.

I do remember having a corner of the garden for flowers, including the obligatory sunflower growing competition with my sister. I also remember growing (and picking) rows of peas for a few years in my parents vegetable garden when I was about 6-8yrs.

This evolved into building a rockery (it still stands today), planting 140 buddleia in one go, and helping my father to build a pond (which has been home to koi carp, lillies, countless moorhen, toads, frogs, and even a black swan).

For many years after this, I lived in several gardenless flats and houses and from the autumn of 2009 until the spring of 2017 I lived in a listed cottage with a tiny narrow outside area. Most of the outdoor space was covered in concrete, apart from a small strip against the wall of my neighbour’s house and but I made the most of growing what I could in a collection of pots.

That garden was a challenge – situated on the north side of the house in a drive-way width strip prone to shade. It did catch the sunshine in the morning, and for a short while in the afternoon, so there are a few plants that are happy here. Birds and bees were not common visitors in this garden, but by providing bee-friendly and bug-enticing plants, and improving the soil, I turned this around a bit. My neighbour’s cat Calu, was a frequent visitor, and therefore birds were not.

At the end of April 2017, I moved into a 1950’s house, this time with plenty of front and back garden space – which had been dedicated to lawn for at least 7 years. It has been the playground of small children and dogs – with worn out routes in the grass to their much-loved swings, slides, and a huge trampoline. There was a fenced-in patio (why would you do that?), and a couple of wooden sheds, but when I moved in, other than grass, it was plant-free.

I got to start from scratch.

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