Gardening requires plenty of patience. Some seeds take weeks to come up. Take strawberry as an example. It is often four weeks before an excited gardener see the first sprout. Another few weeks for the seedlings to reach the size of your fingertip. Those seedlings will then take another whole year to reach maturity and bear fruit. It seems like a prolonged process in an age when all types of fruit are available throughout the year on supermarket shelves.
In the world of trees, strawberries are nowhere near the top of the patience-requiring league. The common apple tree, for example, takes a few years to establish and start giving a decent crop. That is only if you provide adequate care and if the weather is kind.
We bought our first house last October. I found myself having a garden for the first time when autumn had set in. The weather was so spirit-dampening that I didn’t go out much. Not to gather fallen leaves and make leaf mould. Not to put down tulips – the spring bulbs I have somehow missed out for years. I stayed inside and waited.
In the beginning, it was easy because we were busy with the new house and the holidays. Also, nothing seemed to grow for months on end.
When spring came, I started to get the itch. I wanted to turn up the soil and throw down some seeds. Holding me back was the curiosity about mysterious plants awaiting me beneath spring soil. As March continued ticking by, I decided to sow seeds in containers yet one more year while doing an inventory of the garden I inherited.
Each time a flower came out, I checked its name using a plant-identifying app. I took note of its colour, its timing and its usefulness to the bees and us. Through the course of the growing season, I decide if it is to be kept in the ground, moved into a pot or even the compost bin in the coming winter.
Sometimes I got impatient. Unrecognisable shaggy branches called out at me and my knife. I had to remind myself of the wise words of a veteran gardener: You should wait for a year before making any changes in a new garden. I dropped the secateurs and continued to wait.
Lockdown came. Then lockdown was relaxed.
Summer is almost at its full swing, and still, I am waiting.