Our Patio Garden
My patio garden is one that I’ve taken with me since we lived in Newcastle. However, back then, I didn’t have a patio. I had some steps and slab of concrete and calling it a garden felt slightly wrong. Netherless, growing mildrew encrusted courgettes, slug eaten marigolds and tomatoes which never ripened appealed to me. Presently, not so much has changed.
After moving to Orkney, our house came with a communal garden, which I sadly couldn’t change. Maintained beautifully, the garden never felt like ours and in all honesty I felt like I was trespassing.
Putting in my own bulbs in felt almost like an intrusion. It was the wild sort of gardening I loved, Welsh poppies appeared from cracks in walls, years old tulips sprung out of grass borders, and crocus sprawled their way onto the lawn. Even the sycamore trees grew in number each year, their seedlings getting closer to the front door.
I loved the garden, you can see a glimpse of it here. It was always sunny, and the lawn was always clipped short, so you could sprawl out on a picnic blanket. Dappled grass appeared beneath the sycamore tree, and neighbours greeted each other as they hung out their washing. A wave from one end of the garden to the other, a shy smile between hanging out embarrassingly coloured underwear.
I loved the feel of a garden owned and used by everyone. It never felt crowded, just well used by those who chose to. And there were certainly neighbours who preferred not too. Some I never saw use the garden in the whole three years I was there. But, those of us that used it, it was like a magical secret. Just off the high street in Kirkwall, where fisherman’s cottages lined the streets. It made for a welcome break from our very dark cottage. So dark, I hadn’t released until I’d moved house, that we hadn’t seen the sky out of the window, or the setting sun.
In contrast, light streams into every room in our new place. The windows are almost too big, they drink in the days heat. The sun pours in the in evening and and fill the rooms with summery, damp heat which is characteristic of Orkney. The house gets the sun for a couple of glorious hours every evening, which is prime time for the plants outside. We have a tiny patch of grass outside our house, and I’m hesitant to dig anything in to the borders, as I know I’ll have to remove it again when we leave.
We dragged our plant pots around from the old house at the beginning of April, the weather was cold and it was snowing. Snow crushed all of my spring bulbs, as sheets of snow fell off the roof. As a result, they have looked bare for most of the season. It’s only now, as the heat has gradually crept up as far as Orkney, that the plants have started to accelerate. I suppose it’s because if the longer days. The sun doesn’t set until at least 10pm, although now we’ve reached summer solstice. The sun is starting to retreat again by only a couple of minutes a day. It’s a reminder of the seasons and what lies ahead.
Our patio garden is small, with a flagstone path around the house, a large tarmac drive and a square of grass. I knew that we couldn’t plant up the garden, for fear of having to dig it up again when we move next year. So the plant pots that we dragged around from our old house had to be given a new lease of life. We arranged them in clusters around the front door, giving each plant more shelter from the incoming wind.
We dragged sacks of the compost we’d made from the old house in the pots, and set to work planting up for the season ahead.
This year I’ve grown mainly flowers and herbs in the patio garden. The pots didn’t lend themselves well to planting vegetables, who are hungry for space and deep soil. Parsley and sage seem to be what is favoured by the climate here. They grow bushy, and never quite die off the year round.
I’ve planted cosmos, helichrysums, nigella, cornflowers, sweet peas and dahlias. I wanted flowers that would feel wild, give food for the pollinators and soften the glaring tarmac.
In the grow bags, Jack planted garlic. However, it never arrived, and after many weeks of waiting, I’ve sown poppies for next spring. I’m hoping that when we move into our new place, they’ll be ready to go into the ground. For now, the garden still seems stagnant, but I think that’s because I’m still making it my own. It’s been wonderful to craft a new space for the plants, and have free reign with this place.
In the future, I can’t wait to dig up a lawn, have a wild garden, plant herbs, poppies and tall hollyhocks, if they’ll stand the Orkney wind. I’m always inspired by our friends garden, so I’ll be keeping this in mind. But for now, these transportable pots are all I have, and I’m so grateful for an outside space to call our own.