One of my most disappointing days was spent visiting a Castle in Germany which was famous for its garden. This garden had had plenty of money splashed out on colourful plants skillfully arranged in pots, but there was nothing there which would bloom again next year. That’s not a garden! A garden, wherever it is, is a place where you feel all the years of gardeners – working, planting, learning, trying again, until after years and years a timelessness and peace descends and flows into the humans who may visit.
In my adult life, I’ve lived in three different countries in 12 different houses. In every place I tried to make a garden, some more successful than others. I have made so many mistakes, and poured hundreds of pounds, euros, dollars into plants which I then planted in the wrong place, in the wrong climate, watered too much (nasturtiums) or not enough (rudbeckia).
The last few years I think I’ve made some progress as a gardener. I’ve learned that if a plant chooses to seed itself somewhere, that’s where it will stay, and do well. I’ve learned to plant my roses in pots, so that their roots are not eaten by the animals who share our space. I will never plant tagetes again, we have slugs enough. I’ve searched out plants which are special to me – the tiny cyclamen which bravely bloom in a German winter in front of our house came from Trerice, Cornwall:
and next to them, blooming (rather sparsely) in April, are Scilla siberica, which are the bulbs which Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Vicky, later the Kaiserin and always ‘Die Engländerin’ had planted in the grounds of the Neues Palais in Potsdam.
Many years ago I fell in love with a book called “Elizabeth and her German Garden”, by Elizabeth von Arnim. First published in 1898, it tells the (fictional) story of a woman, Elizabeth, and her delight in creating a garden in Pommerania. It’s still in print, but also available as a pdf online:
In fact, Elizabeth von Arnim wasn’t much of a gardener, but she had a very interesting life. She was born in Australia in 1866, but moved to England with her parents when she was four years old. In 1889, whilst in Florence, she met Count Henning August von Arnim-Schlagenthin and married him – becoming a German citizen – in 1891, later moving to his family estate, Nassenheide, Pommerania.
They had five children, four daughters and a son, but in 1907 her husband was imprisoned for fraud, the family ruined, and Elizabeth (Actually Mary Annette Beauchamp) returned, with her five children, to England.
Read more about her exciting life here: https://elizabethvonarnimsociety.org/about-elizabeth-von-arnim/biography/
This last week my lovely husband and I have been creating a new area in our garden, the ‘Bauerngarten’ – which is now finished. We can sit in the sun there in the mornings, and get a completely new feeling of peace and timelessness.
Carys and Horst in their German garden.
The Cabin Fever part