This is not a tutorial.
Tales from a personal horticultural renaissance
My childhood home in Penzance was draped in a wave of Lilac Wisteria, Ceanothus sounded electric from visiting bees. Giant Echiums towered high above sweet smelling privet hedges. Inside, each room was an explosion of colour and creativity encouraged. The house was located within a Victorian Square, backing onto a vast, slightly overgrown graveyard; a stones throw from the mile long Promenade, Jubilee Pool and countless seaside greens such as Morrab Gardens and Penlee Park.
We weren’t taken on family holidays, we were lucky enough to be born and raised in Cornwall and were left to explore, plus we were skint.
No matter where we moved, the kitchen sink always sat below a large window looking out over green. Swallows dipping and diving, seagulls always watching. There was usually a tub for organic waste at the back door and an experimental stew simmering on the hob.
No waste. It wasn’t unusual to eat an evening meal that contained leftovers from the past couple of nights, added to and re-invented into something new. We all used to call my father a ‘tight’ git (some still do), but now I see his resourcefulness, I follow this ethic everyday. You don’t waste food that you have sown, grown, nurtured, fed, harvested and cooked.
Reminiscing these memories I find myself drowning in nostalgia. The pure, innocent, lush joy of home. Winter memories are equally as treasured but that’s for another time.
I don’t remember a whole lot within walls, with outdoor space came imagination, wonder, and possibilities. I’m surprised how I hadn’t developed more of an ‘active’ interest in gardening before now, all the signs were there. Instead the ocean wooed me.
I spent over a decade working seasonally as a Surf Instructor locally and abroad… somewhere along the way I lost the stoke. Travelling brought some new experiences such as working on an organic date farm in California, harvesting Blueberries in Australia and helping build brush fencing, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. For the first time, in a long time, I was being stimulated, learning new skills, useful skills. Upon returning to local I knew I wanted to continue working outdoors, with my hands, being active, productive and creative.
My dad returned to college in his 60’s along with one of my older siblings to enrol in a horticulture degree. Although they gained immensely from this, I decided formal education wasn’t the right route for me. Luckily, I was soon introduced to a wonderful lady called Liz. She has over a decade of hands on gardening experience and attained a doctorate in Photosynthesis in seaweed. She gave me a chance, I’m so thankful she did! We have been working part-time together for well over a year. Originally as an unofficial apprenticeship, cheaper labor in return for her to pass on some of her valuable knowledge. And now, with a slightly larger grasp on what the hell is going on in a typical border, even doing the odd day solo. Although, as hard as she tries… I will never get my head around Latin.
Over the last six months, my partner and I have been knees deep in a partial renovation of an Old Granary. Whilst Joe’s been skilfully crafting a bespoke kitchen, amongst 101 other ‘projects’ I’ve been granted a unique opportunity, pretty much free-reign to re-landscape a beautiful, fairly large garden. With far from a vast gardening experience… I’ve dived right in. An initial ruthless clearing of the worst weeds, shrubs, Yukka’s and some intensive pruning later, I found myself filled with satisfaction. I simply love getting stuck-in, harder the labor, longer the day, better I feel!
I will state this quickly to get it out the way, I’m Vegan. You’ll rarely hear me elaborate. Eating a lot in general, 90% of that is veggies. The majority of my close friends and family are vegetarian, so it only seemed natural with this opportunity to have a go at growing my own!
Being a tad ‘all or nothing’ I’m also attempting to grow the majority of my herbs and veg from seeds. Beetroot, peas, kale, fennel, radishes, leeks, cabbage, squash, beans to name a few.
After months of cooking on a camping stove in the porch, the kitchen has been installed, freeing it up to become a temporary greenhouse. To my slight surprise, all my seedlings are looking happy and healthy. In my haste to sow everything in time, I now have pots brimming with plants ready to be transplanted into their new home outside… only problem is my raised beds aren’t quite ready.
Any evening or day off is spent in the garden, ticking jobs off the list. Finishing the raised beds and planting out my first seedlings are my main priority.
We have come so far already in transforming the house and garden, but there’s still a fair way to go! Given your interest, a progress report will follow soon.
Here’s where we are and where it started…