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One of my favourite stories is ‘The Secret Garden‘ by Frances Hodgson Burnett. First published in 1911, it is considered a classic of children’s literature. Orphaned Mary Lennox finds a key to a secret garden on her uncle’s estate in Yorkshire. She asks her uncle’s permission for ‘a bit of earth’ to make things grow. Using the garden motif, Burnett explores the healing power inherent in living things.
A few days ago I bought some sprouted hyacinth and Tete-a-tete narcissi bulbs to pot and put in our living room. I love to watch indoor bulbs grow and flower this time of year. It reminds me that, even though I am still in the depths of an English winter, springtime and another cycle of growth lie ahead.
More importantly, it reminds me that when we plant seeds or bulbs beneath the soil, they need to lie and rest and germinate, hidden from view, before starting to grow. Like new ideas and endeavours or old issues and griefs, they may need time before they come to the light of day.
We live in a flat and have a patio out front where I grow a few herbs and flowers in containers, and have some space to mess around with dirt and pots. I went to the hardware store for my bit of earth, explaining that I don’t have the space for a big bag of potting soil. So I came away with a carry bag of soil for £1.
When I plant things and garden, I also feel connected to my mother Nell who loved beautiful things and flowers and was a keen gardener. She died from cancer on January 20th 1980, when I was 16.
At the time, due to my youth and family circumstances, just like a stone or a bulb, I buried my grief away. I have, over the years, “dealt with it”, yet this time of year it can still feel very fresh and close. Sometimes I’m surprised at how it can still split me in two and bring me to my knees.
So on this showery morning, I got my bit of earth and transplanted my bulbs into some pretty pots to bring inside. As I gently separated the roots and sprinkled and patted the earth around the bulbs, I felt close to my Mom. I remembered her elegance and the beauty that she taught me to notice and create in the world around me. As it began to rain, a few of my tears moistened the soil too.