Be­fore you go. . .

Tony Red­man is at peace in the gar­den

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE - Tony Red­man re­tired his­toric build­ings sur­veyor, and Angli­can priest tony@thered­

It is high sum­mer. All those anx­ious times sow­ing seed in spring and that im­pulse buy­ing in the gar­den cen­tres has sud­denly born fruit. The gar­den is awash with colour and con­trast, fruit­ful­ness and all the smells and sights and de­lights of sum­mer.

I love my gar­den. Some­times af­ter a fraught time bat­tling with slugs and snails, white­fly, black­fly and green­fly, none of whom seem to be work­ing to my agenda, I feel that I have earned the right to just sit and en­joy it. Just for a mo­ment, the ground elder, goose grass and bindweed that threaten to take over are given a short re­prieve. I try to be or­ganic, and over the years we have suc­ceeded in the veg gar­den, but I have to ad­mit to re­vert­ing to chem­i­cal weed killers when things threaten to get on top of me in the flower gar­den. We are big re­cy­clers and chip­pers. We last had a bon­fire three years ago, and we have never emp­tied that nice brown bin the coun­cil gave us years ago. To me, it is no sur­prise at all that the Bi­ble sets cre­ation within a gar­den. In my gar­den, when I do man­age to stop do­ing things, I can feel com­pletely at peace, and at one with cre­ation. It is a place to re­group and re­cu­per­ate.

Gar­dens are very per­sonal spaces. Mine is a wilder­ness. There are bits I have mod­elled on gar­dens I have en­joyed vis­it­ing, such as Beth Chatto’s gravel gar­den, Helm­ing­ham Hall, and Alan Gray’s Old Vicarage gar­den at East Rus­ton. When­ever I go past these pocket sou­venirs, I smile to my­self as I re­mem­ber the far big­ger spaces they rep­re­sent.

Other places in the gar­den are planted with gar­den wor­thy ver­sions of wild flow­ers which re­flect the coun­try­side, the mead­ows and ditches. Some have been planted in hon­our of a fam­ily mem­ber, so my daugh­ters each have a tree named for them, as do my par­ents and my wife. Spe­cial friends are also rep­re­sented by a plant, some of which were given for spe­cial oc­ca­sions. I also grow plants which thrive in the grav­elly sandy lands of the Breck­land edge, to­gether with other plants which have a spe­cial affin­ity to where we live, such as the yel­low flag iris and the ori­en­tal poppy named af­ter our vil­lage.

In the veg­etable gar­den we proudly grow vir­tu­ally all our own veg, which in re­al­ity means we sur­vive off what we grow, rather than eat what we fancy, plant­ing es­pe­cially those things which are tastier fresh from the soil. But some things de­feat me. I can­not grow onions de­spite flow­ing all the rules. Any tips, any­one? Each year I chal­lenge a friend in the vil­lage to see who can grow the largest cele­riac. One Christ­mas he gave me a re­ally heavy gift. Neatly wrapped in sea­sonal wrap­pings. Ex­cited at the prospect of some­thing use­ful, I opened it with a child’s glee, only to discover it was the big­gest cele­riac root you have ever seen, grown, ap­par­ently, in his own gar­den. He wins ever year, hands down. What’s more, his big­gest onion last year weighed in at more than my en­tire crop.

The year be­fore last I was so proud of the gar­den that I thought about open­ing it for charity, un­der the Na­tional Gar­dens Scheme. I made en­quiries, spent a week weed­ing and tweak­ing and spruc­ing it up. Two dis­cern­ing ladies came and spent a morn­ing strolling round. Af­ter a con­sul­ta­tion on the pa­tio, they agreed. It is a wilder­ness.

“You’ll get a lot of crit­i­cism about all those weeds,” they said. “What weeds? Every plant in my gar­den has my per­mis­sion to be where it is,” I replied. With feint words of en­cour­age­ment, they left me brochures and ap­pli­ca­tion forms. “We could call it a nat­u­ral gar­den,” I heard them mut­ter on the way out, “but he would have to do a lot to en­cour­age peo­ple to come all this way.”

I have to con­fess, the idea of do­ing teas and cakes and plant stalls filled me with a cer­tain hor­ror, so we de­cided to aban­don the idea and re­tain our san­ity. We do oc­ca­sion­ally of­fer the gar­den to peo­ple who need some space to re­flect. Graced with an out­side toi­let, a tea point and places to sit in the dry, they come and just ‘be’ for an hour or two.

As I sit watch­ing the sun go down at the end of the day, shin­ing through the leaves, and hear the birds trip­ping through the trees, I don’t care what any­body else thinks of my wilder­ness. It’s my mess, I know every square cen­time­tre, and I rather like it the way it is!

‘We do oc­ca­sion­ally of­fer the gar­den to peo­ple who need some space to re­flect’

ABOVE: Gar­dens are very per­sonal spaces

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