Even as I walk out of the door the Robin chides me, tut-tutting as I inadvertently pass that part of my garden that belongs to him. I say hello, out loud. He flutters away as a neighbour passes, who also tut-tuts at me talking to myself again. I have to duck to miss the overhang of ancient ivy, and have to hang onto the willow to keep my balance on the wet and slippery steps. Like a pole-dancer I twirl graciously into the lawned area and stand there, breathing in the loud look of Spring unfolding. A jackdaw hops near to the chicken feeder, then scoops a low but hasty take-off as it notices me coming. Dandelions pock the lawn, guiding busy insects to their glorious and downy platforms, and a huff of breeze sends the plum blossom plummeting. A perfect day.

Nestled in the Willow arch is the old bench so popular with last years’ wasps, gnawing lines of weathered oak away to make a nest of their own no doubt. The twisted withies of the arch that I’ve teased into shape are festooned with a trillion upright fluffy buds, all covered in tiny green-brown bee-like insects.

I saunter in a zigzag past the woodpile and the potted rootstock which awaits ancient and local grafts from secret orchards. They whip the air in anticipation. I am at the pulpit now, a thick set square of laurel jutting through an otherwise rambling hedge. The pulpit will be allowed to grow tall and true, a turret of potential habitats in this wildlife fortress I call home. For the time being however, it hides the best part of an unwanted kayak, and on the parts which poke through the greenery sit spiders sunning themselves and scuttling occasionally from blackbirds and that rather grumpy robin.

I have planted mostly wild flowers but also fistfuls of seeds collected last year from papaver, nigella, aquilegia and the like. Any signs of growth are still too miniscule to check, but are there nonetheless. Between wild strawberries and foxgloves sit peas and echinops. Behind the thousand fruit bushes hide bays of compost, neatly categorised like a proper science project, turned regularly and watered often. I am a Seedy Sister, part of that mad bunch of middle aged women who promote heritage seed varieties, and who generally dream of compost and allotments. But even here I rebel a little, planting flowers for no other reason that I love the colours and the scents, rejecting vegetables because they’re all so predictably good for you. And my garden answers back with a lascivious smirk, and the insects answer too, my very best agents provocateur. How delicious it is to feel the ripple of mischief, triggered by nothing more than an alternative planting plan.

The upper garden is a micro-meadow waiting to happen. A pollinators’ paradise has been set out and seeded, though at the moment it is mostly Sweet Cecily and dock. In a shady corner I have built a shallow pond. It was for the ducks. Look at the redundant duck house, go on, look. I am talking to myself again, daring myself to accept the ducks demise two nights ago, courtesy of a neighbours’ unloved terrier. The duck house squats at the pond like a gravestone, though in the meantime next doors newts are showing interest.

Above this is the ruin, a decrepit cowshed that is positively heritage if you wear those rose tinted glasses people speak of. Held up by ivy and overgrown with elder, it houses hedgehogs and nesting birds and vintage junk from the 1970s. I keep walking. Up. It is the nature of this garden. It is up, all the way, until of course you get to the top. On slippery days like today you can hang onto the Lilac, twirl on that to keep your balance. It is oh so very nearly in blossom. Comfrey sprawls, in flower, at my feet, thrumming with the sounds of big fat bees.

To my left the ground elder greens up the floor of the micro-copse. At its edge is a half-hedge, a not-quite Devon bank, bursting with bramble and nettle, cleavers, rose, Elder, yew and lots more lilac.  In the corner, where the briar rose ensnares the dying holly, the bank disintegrates. It has been hit too many times from the other side by the neighbour with the terrier. He drives a tractor. Badly. His bank-bumping habits have dislodged a once-dry wall, the stones lay like miss-shaped saucers. I slide quietly towards to the pile and gingerly lift one. Out shoots a lizard! Tiny and fast like a dart or a dream, caught out of the corner of my eye but lost just as quickly. Lizards in my garden! I’m in heaven.



09/07/2012 12:09am

The aim was to spread awareness of the heritage of native species and about the need for conservation, as some of these species are endangered. Thanks.

09/18/2012 4:51am

Lizards typically have feet and external ears, while snakes lack both of these characteristics. However, because they are defined negatively as excluding snakes, lizards have no unique distinguishing characteristic as a group. Thanks.


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