Our Suffolk Cottage Garden 2017 – 2018
Our Suffolk Cottage Garden 2017 – 2018

      This was the year that I finally received the diagnosis that would change my life.  In June, 2017, I was finally diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  For most people, such news is a horror.  For me, although the illness is a horror to me, after knowing for so long that this was the illness that had plagued me for at least twenty years I was simply relieved and eager to at last receive treatment that would help me.  This came in the form of levodopa; the primary medication for Parkinson’s.  It was upon taking that medication, on 8th July 2017, that I started to regain so much of the ability that evaded me every day.  I was ecstatic.  Not least of all, because I could once again truly experience the joy of gardening.  I was told that I may have this benefit for around 3-6 years before it would wear off, forever.

      In 2017, the hedgerow thickened greatly and became home to many tiny Wren.  Such pretty little birds.  All of the planting started to fill out in a way that it had not done, previosuly.  The garden was developing a maturity.  To the right of the patio; toward the centre of the cottage garden, I had planted a small cherry tree and this was now gaining in height.  By our garden gate, to the left of the cottage, viewed from the garden, a hornbeam I had planted shot up and so I decided not to keep this cut to a hedge, but instead to let it grow tall and into a thriving tree.  The Japanese Shirota, which offers the most stunning white blossom in spring, also grew rapidly and broadly; offering the end of the garden some shelter and coverage over, as planned, the roof tiles of our garages.

      The height that the trees offerd, gave a sense that the garden was indeed more mature and it started to add to the sense that we had been here for years.  We were growing into the place and the garden was starting to take on a magical feel; more old fashioned, aged and with hidden spaces only viewable from certain positions within the gatrden.  This aspect of planting is contrary to what many people do with small gardens.  Many people will strip everyithing back almost to the perimeter fence and aim only for more and more space.

       Yet, when you allow for trees to fill out and grow high, when you add height and depth to a garden and when you find that you start to walk among the plants, rather than towering over them, you start to gain a sense of a much bigger garden than is truly there.  You find yourself drawn in more and you start to see the garden as a place to explore.  It is this that adds a dimension of space far more than stripping the garden almost bare to literally see open space.  The brain needs to feel curioius, it needs to not know what is in every nook and that makes a garden become a bigger space; for the brain sees the spaces as separate, explorable areas or even rooms.  Well, that is my opinion, though I am sure many of you will disagree and will feel that small gardens must have thin perimeter based planting to maximise the open space.  What is your view?  Please do comment, below. In truth, there’s no right or wrong as long as you do what you love.

       Wildlife continued to be part of the garden.  From little newts to mice and even, at our fence, red deer and muntjac deer would appear, to eat from the hedge itself.  I had also made a point of planting for late autmn / early winter.  This is a time when orange coloured flowers appear, along with those of purple.  This is why Hallowe’em/ Somhain are associated with the colours purple and orange.

      By early 2018, we were struck by a fierce winter.  We had snow for weeks and I took great enjoyment in watching our dogs play in the snow.  It was just beautiful to see the ice sculpture of icicles forming amid the honeysuckle.  This was a long, harsh winter and it started to feel unending.

      Almost as suddenly as it had appeared, winter finally melted away and the garden seemed richer in colour than ever before; no doubt we had been looking at the white of snow for too long.  Spring flowers burst forth, from poppies, to roses and honeysuckle.  This seemed a stunningly rich array of colour.

      To add yet more colour and a feeling of festivity, as if having left the eternal winter of Narnia, I added bunting to the garden and festooned the place with happy colours.  This provided a lovely backdrop to the many gatherings of friends and family that would take place over the course of the year.

      No longer able to mow the lawn myself, due to a symptom of Parkinson’s called dystonia, I decided to hire a gardener.  This was George and he would attend weekly at the height of summer.  He took care of the lawn in the back garden, the front garden and beside the garage, as well as an area to the rear of the property.  This was a huge relief.  At first, my ego got in the way and I felt like a failure for not being able to mow the lawn myself.  My dear mum offered me her wisdom and said that my responsibolity was to ‘make it happen’ and that by hiring George, I was still achieving that.  She was right.  She always knew just what to say at just the right time.

      A long and enjoyable summer were cherished and we finally settled into autumn and winter, the dogs having loved their long summer days in the sunshine, beneath the vast Suffolk sky.

      Of course, the story of the garden goes on and I will write another post about how the garden developed, shortly.   Do you remember the winter we called ‘the Beast from the East?’  How did it affect you and your garden?  If you have health difficulties, how do you cope with you garden tasks?  Please feel free to comment.

(c) Deano Parsons. 2020.






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