Beginnings and endings

by Handy Mag
Published: Last Updated on

by Tricia Harris, Helmsley Walled Garden

This is my last column for the Handy Mag as marketing manager of Helmsley Walled Garden. As I write this, retirement is just five weeks away.

I’ve worked here at the garden for almost fourteen years, starting as a part-time gardener and then starting to split my time between gardening and marketing the gardening. Slowly, slowly, the marketing has come to dominate my time.

I’ve loved just about every minute. Maybe the horizontal sleet days not so much but into every life and all that. But the time comes when you know that you can’t do the job justice anymore and I’ve hit that point.

I’ll be sad to go but it will be adieu rather than au revoir. I will give myself a goodly break, particularly as whoever comes to fill my place will not want me hanging round like the ghost of Christmas past. But I would love to come back as a volunteer gardener.

Gardening remains my first love and this garden is a dream. I’d like to keep a maternal eye on the Laburnum Arch which I’ve done a lot to get back into shape (it will insist on growing branches where they have no business to be on an arch). I’d love to get stuck into caring for the dahlias again or working the Physic Garden or the White Garden: all areas I’ve spent a lot of time working on in my years here.

Of course, no longer working (or as the Treasury likes to call it, being economically inactive – a term I take great exception to for all sorts of reasons I won’t bore you with) means that I will be able to spend some time on my own garden. Hurrah.
That enormous pile of books that is building into a stack to rival The Old Man of Hoy will get some attention too.

Perhaps most importantly, I will have the gift of time to look and to appreciate. Life seems to get more rushed for all of us and it becomes ever more difficult to stop and smell the roses.

A couple of weekends ago I managed to cut back the dead foliage in my back garden. It felt important as I knew that under the old brown and green blotched leaves, there were myriad snowdrops and the tiny buds of cyclamen, crocus, reticulate iris and hellebores, all lovely harbingers of spring. So often I miss them as we are gearing up to open Helmsley to the public, the weather is against me or some other reason. It means I’m hoiking that stuff up in late March by which time only the hellebores are left.

Each season is a vital part of the jigsaw that makes up the life of our gardens. To be disconnected from them is to be disconnected from life.

I often find that poetry expresses what I feel about spring better than I can. Many poets have written about spring, and I would urge you to haul that poetry anthology off the shelf to find one or two. but I will leave you with Thomas Hardy’s I Watched a Blackbird.

I watched a blackbird on a budding sycamore
One Easter Day, when sap was stirring twigs to the core;
I saw his tongue, and crocus-coloured bill
Parting and closing as he turned his trill;
Then he flew down, seized on a stem of hay,
And upped to where his building scheme was under way,
As if so sure a nest was never shaped on spray.

Thank you for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed these columns and that in a small way they’ve inspired you to get out into your garden, or pick up a poetry book, or perhaps both. I hope so.

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