Whisper it, but we have been away again, with our ‘other’ garden in Denmark for Christmas. It is not like the two are the same, after all. The allotment is small, perfectly formed (much of the time), amazingly fertile, sited in the heart of a major city, while the ‘summerhouse’ plot is sprawling, semi-wild, producing only what takes its whim, sitting on the windswept edge of the Kattegat sea on the east coast of Jutland.
What they share, perhaps, is a non-interventionist ideal, the conviction – if this doesn’t sound too fanciful – that some spaces are better left largely to their own devices. This of course is easier in Denmark than Branch Hill, where after all we want to grow crops, but the underlying ethos has echoes of each other. We have scattered annual seeds from favourite sustainable supplier Higgledy Garden (http://higgledygarden.com) and pods from an occasional wild lupin from a field nearby, but apart from spring tulips hidden in the bank (a ritual habit too hard to break), here we only plant trees.
I have written before about the powerful pull of growing something you know you will never see in its maturity, like a late child to an elderly man. But there is joy to be had in seeing a beech hedge take, the birch you planted five years ago soar six metres high, a larch sapling thrust powerfully towards the sky like a Jules Verne wooden rocket.
There isn’t much to ‘do’ as such, the pruning and trimming will come later when it is warmer, but every day we pooter around the plot, discovering new things, learning to look at the space with more open eyes. Mostly though we burn logs from the senile trees we replaced; we hang out seed balls for the myriad fluttering birds and we walk the beach, a tantalising 200 yards away.
We returned recharged, ready to take on the damage wrought by the pigeons, the saturated soil and cold on the allotment. This weekend is Epiphany and Howard’s birthday, there is work to do.