Why blog about this? Who would be interested… It’s giving me a single point on which to rest and take stock during a time when there have been no points to stop, or to step back and consider. Before I attempt to switch off the last three months in Ham House Garden are worthy of a quick reflection.
First, I’ve been gardening. That’s been a joy (except when it’s 32 degrees) and my reading of the garden and understanding of its own peculiar ways has improved. I now know with certainly that heavy rain showers, even four of them, will not make one tiny bit of difference to the driest border in SW London with a high wall, mature trees on the other side and loose, sandy soil, not mulched. I can predict the resting points and flights of our resident little owl from about 7am until 10am. I am certain that sweet peas flower when my back is turned.
I’ve also been a part of a tiny team, tackling a huge workload during times none of us could previously have imagined. We have planned and implemented together in short turnaround, week after week.
I now know when one of my colleagues hasn’t slept well within 2-3 minutes of arrival on site at 7am. I know when my other colleague needs to eat before (h)anger sets in. And our tiny team is duplicated (tiredness and (h)anger included I suspect) all over the National Trust: we have felt much more part of a bigger team, closer to its leaders and contributing to all our futures.
There are two thoughts I am going to choose to bring back with me beyond my week off, to guide me through the next three months. The first is that a 400 year old garden can withstand the latest pandemic. It might be fluffier in places than it would have been, there may be fewer plants in some spaces too but its structure, its style and its character is for the long, long term. And it’s not about the garden team keeping it going, it’s actually about its visitors: the people that use it to relax in its shade or sun, the family that comes every week for an afternoon because it’s “our garden” and the little boy today that kept saying "Wow", the most loudly when he saw a wheelbarrow, the second loudest when he saw a yellow flower.
Each Wednesday I now have the chance to make posies. They get delivered to local residents by those connected with our garden - our volunteers and staff. This week I received a painting of one my posies from Dorothy. This painting, how it came in to my hands (via one current volunteer, one ex-volunteer and her neighbour) and my three hours of unaldulterated floral creativity each week sum up the best of the last three months.
" And it’s not about the garden team keeping it going, it’s actually about its visitors..."