The raw figures are not encouraging. We have swapped our country garden for a city one which is precisely one five-hundred-and-thirty-sixth of the size. Twelve acres exchanged for just under one thousand square feet. It means a totally different relationship with your plants, a new regime, which could (strangely) become hectically intense, a change down into a very low gear indeed, needing frantic pedalling.
My night thoughts at Saling Hall wandered round the acres enjoying, or dissatisfied with, trees or groups of trees, concerned with blanket weed in a pond or when to cut some long grass. Spring (specially this year) unfolded week by week over a good three months. You could go off for a week without missing anything vital.
Here, in contrast, I will start awake at midnight with a brain wave: the shoot heading up the wall could be tied in a foot to the left; I could remove a couple of leaves to make room for that flower; the pot of lavender would get more sun on a higher step. It’s a hectic little microcosm, held artificially in some sort of equilibrium by constant
adjustments and daily doling out of water, dowsing one plant and letting another go thirsty to toughen it up.
I know the green fly (there are currently three) by name and take a magnifying glass to a spot of mildew. If anything gets out of hand, in other words, I have only myself to blame.
What does our little domain contain? We are still finding out. It has three levels, descending to the kitchen and the shady little patio outside it. The levels are important – and intriguing; the far quarter of the garden (the part that gets most sun) is raised up five steps, fenced off by a stone balustrade, in some ways looking like the poop deck of (shall we say) a frigate. It stands several feet higher than the surrounding gardens beyond its grey-brick walls. How this happened it’s hard to say, except that it was a long time ago; our massive sycamore grows at this level, and you can’t alter the ground level round a tree.
In any case the poop gives a good view back towards the back of the house, which in turn has a ground-floor balcony, so at each end there is a comprehensive view, as from a hill into a valley. (See, my delusions have started already). A relatively broad path leads up the centre, edged with box. Its stone matches the grey London brick of the walls. It widens in the centre to make room for a table, pots, a Mr Spit face splashing into a tiny basin. Whenever it was built (I suppose in the 1970s) it was done well, with good materials. The walls are trellised to nine feet or so and carry a green load of ivy, climbing hydrangeas, roses, honeysuckle and jasmine. It is a well-furnished box, into which I plan to pack all sorts of joys. We have ordered the greenhouse. There won’t be room to even tickle a cat.