Years ago, I lived in a hamlet in Wales. My world revolved around my ten acres of heaven – my trout hatchery, bluebell wood, wild flower meadow, herbaceous borders and the tinkling stream that ran along the end of the drive. Every waking minute was spent weeding, mulching, dead heading and digging. It was my favourite place on earth.
On the day I had to leave to come back to live in London full time, I thought my heart would break. It was a physical pain that even today remains a small, dull ache. My next garden was a postage stamp sized patio in Hampstead. The moment of revelation came when I suddenly realised that I now had time actually to sit in my patch of green, and could smell the jasmine because it was next to me and not several hundred yards in the distance.
Small gardens had their place. My parents’ garden in Horsham is another miniature oasis, and I was reminded of this when I visited them last week. When we first saw it, it was an unpromising strip of grass that snaked around their bungalow. Cold and unloved, it looked positively municipal. Fifteen years on, it overflows with colour and just the right amount of confusion. I adore this space, and it proves that it doesn’t have to be big to be beautiful. Most recently, they took on a further strip of land at the back of the house and re landscaped it to become the most wonderful walled enclave, complete with miniature wild flower meadow. This will take another 15 years to mature, which is quite a bold undertaking for my mother and father, given they are 83 and 80 respectively.
Gardens have always been an inspiration to me, the only difference now being that I understand the beauty of small as well as big.