One of the troubles of working in a garden project – even if these days I am mainly in the office – is that it makes my home garden efforts look decidedly feeble. Here at the garden in Thrive,the allotment field has really exploded into production, rows of waist high kale, bean smothering the frames and courgettes firing out of the foliage as you watch. While back at home, my garden descends into shade in the summer as the big oak tree next door comes into leaf and stares at me reproachfully each morning with a list of overdue jobs. I need my own team of gardeners.
But it’s not just my disorganization. It seems to just have been a strange year for some plants. Last year I had my best every tomato crop. This year they have grown sad and spindly but it’s been a bumper year for blueberries and strawberries. And odd things are happening with my geraniums – loads of luxuriant leaf growth but next to no flowers. Fortunately, the lobelia has gone berserk, clambering through everything.
The fruit also seems to be coming in strangely early this year too. In the garden at Thrive, the cherry plum has been dropping juicy edible fruits for the past month (not bad for a tree that’s in theory mainly ornamental), the crab apple is heavily laden already and I’ve finally managed to glean a ripe fig from the side of the tea room, (although that’s more to do with getting there before the other scavenging therapists, rather than any scarcity of fruit).
This annual variability of success is both the strengths and challenges of working with therapeutic gardening. It shows us how we can work with things even when we cannot control them; it allows us to see the garden and ourselves as part of a connected whole; it gives us patience, perseverance and optimism and demonstrates a continuity, that life goes on, even when one crop fails, the seeds of the next are growing. It’s also why it’s essential for the Therapist to have a good knowledge and experience of horticulture. For example, for a client who is lacking in confidence, it may be useful to pick plants or crops with a high success rate – however strange the growing year
So perhaps I need to learn to accept the randomness of my growing and the vagaries of the weather as part of my therapy, ditch my delusion that I can control my garden and just roll with whatever comes – last year tomatoes, this year cherry plums– next year, who know. But its going to be fun to find out.!