My name is Paul Reeder and I have lived here on and off since 1974 when I was aged 11. This was a big house and a big change for my family, (my Mum, Dad, two brothers and two sisters). It was an adventure.
Originally a much larger plot, the side garden had been separated off by the seller and a new house was built next door. To the other side there was a paddock with two horses. To the rear were three large old houses, empty and derelict and ready for replacement with a block of flats. There were plum trees, apple trees, wild strawberries, figs and a very tall yew from which you could see for miles around.
That first summer here was an amazing time for a kid. We would climb over the back fence and explore the derelict houses, later walking along the foundation trenches of the new flats as they were being built. To the side there was a massive double garage and workshop, which would soon give way to the new house. In our garden we would climb the apple tree and sit watching the horses munching away at the grass in the paddock next door. There was even a big old concrete air raid shelter in our back garden which we cleared out and sat in, just because it was an air raid shelter.
Over the years I watched my Dad toil away at the lawn, dig over his vegetable patch and prune his roses. Trees came and went over the years. The big yew gave way to a garage, which also spelt the end of the air raid shelter The plum trees and apple tree got old and died. A Christmas tree, saved and planted by my sister, took hold and is now over 30 feet tall. Eventually even my Dad passed away and so it was time to sell the house and move on. Let the past be the past.
But maybe not just yet. Let’s have another roll of the dice. Because the show isn’t over until the fat lady sings and there’s plenty of them up our street. This is the era of quantitative easing and so borrowing a stupid amount of money to buy the place didn’t seem too crazy. It also gave me somewhere meaningful to put my Dad’s ashes instead of the big impersonal municipal crematoriums with their rules and restrictions. So our connection with this place continues and our duty to the garden does too. A high maintenance garden and quite jumbled and chock full of the efforts and contributions of the previous gardeners of which I am now the latest.
There are roses and peonies here that I remember when we moved in. The layout was different back then and they are now in the wrong places. My Dad grew shrubs and hardy perennials, even small hedges, in places that made no sense to me. I prefer symmetry, sorry Dad! So my task, self appointed as it is, remains to bring some order and my idea of design into the garden. But not simply to root up everything they have done and start with a fresh canvas. The garden will continue to evolve, and I will retain the mature plants and the basic layout. Then in the not too distant future my mark on the place will fade as well. But I will have fun while I am doing it.
Dad, Weimeraner & My Sister
So feel free to watch in amusement as I struggle to make my vision for this garden take shape. Also feel free to make comments and suggestions about things I could do differently. All ideas are welcome!
This garden has been important to me and I am happy here. It has taught me something about time. Big trees and even big people disappear over the decades and new ones take their place. We are all important in our own way, but we are all temporary. The game is to do what we can be proud of while we can still play.
Having a cup of tea early in the morning as the sun comes up over the back of the house, it is one of the most peaceful places I know. On the TV, in the newspapers and out in the street it is now 2015.
On my bench, in a quiet corner, it might be 1974.