So imagine my dilemma. In my rather modest front yard, over there, to the right, by the big old stone wall and the vine, is a pond. That sounds great, doesn’t it? Especially since here in the summer the heat often rises into the high 30s. Except – like the bamboo – my best Esther Williams imitation with floral bathing cap and waterproof eye makeup would be visible to any poor passing soul. And there is another, more thorny problem. There’s no way around it. Believe me, I’ve tried. I looked at it from every angle. The pool is shaped like a uterus.
While this may come in handy for all my full moon witchcraft rituals, I generally like a little more privacy for them, plus the candle wax and woad go everywhere. Also, the pump is broken so that when it rains, it fills with rainwater, which then cannot escape. Arriving in September meant that without warning or training I was the owner of the village’s most prolific mosquito breeding program and here we are cursed with tiger mosquitoes that don’t even have the courtesy to make a sound before sniffing your pale uncovered flesh devastated. The late Rosemary Verey never had to put up with that. The pool has to go. No one can style a uterus that takes up a quarter of their yard. That’s another 5,000 euros, thank you.
I need to do all of this before I even get to the fun part, the planting. This presents us with new challenges. In my London garden, I was obsessed with making flowers bloom in the shade. Here I have the opposite problem, with 300 days of sunshine a year. But suddenly these delicate blooms I brought to life in my city garden are too easy to grow. So simple that they can be found at every roundabout in such abundance that I now think they might be vulgar, even ordinary. I’ve considered buying — at further exorbitant expense — a cloud-pruned olive tree as a centerpiece for the center bed, but now I see that our vet’s office has four of these in its parking lot, and I’m worried they’re the Mediterranean one Equivalent of privet. But my dreams go into my gardening notebook: lavender? Mimosa? wisteria? How many citrus fruits? Is Russian Sage too much of a roundabout plant? Is it too hot for hydrangeas?
To be honest, this is all a form of displacement activity. More than pictures of my old house, when photos of our London garden suddenly pop up on my phone, something sticks in my throat. I can’t bring myself to change the image that is the banner on my twitter account, all thyme and rosemary cascading onto brick paths and arches of pink Constance Spry roses.
We created this garden from scratch over 20 years ago and it has become the backdrop to some of the happiest moments of our lives. So many Sunday mornings have involved weeding empty glasses from the flower beds and cigarette butts from the gravel after another party. And I miss my plants, many of them gifts from friends, cuttings and offshoots from their own gardens. We couldn’t take any of them with us because since Brexit you need an expensive license for each one and I need all the 5,000 euros I can muster at the moment. So we distributed everything in pots around north London, sometimes to the same people who gave it to us. It makes me happy to think of them thriving in their new homes with old friends.
Time passes quickly. Last fall, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to start a proper garden just yet, but also that life without flowers is a miserable thing, I tossed about a hundred bulbs into a dozen large pots and placed them like sentinels up the steps to the garden’s front door . Now the daffodils are 30 cm high and the tulips stick out like little green beaks through the earth. I know, as much as I planted them to cheer me up, as placeholders for future possibilities, a front yard is also given to other people. You deserve a lot more than a womb pool and a bamboo forest. Watch this room (through the railing).