Over the last few weeks I have spent many hours locked down in my garden. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to do those tasks I usually avoid: clearing paths of aluminium weed, thinning banks of Renga Renga, digging out invasive anemone japonica. This rather ruthless gardening has been modulated by planting bulbs and weeding around the delicate autumn crocuses which have just started to appear. I often find myself starting one task and ending up doing another, responding to whatever takes my eye. As a result the vegetable garden remains luxuriant with weeds.
Working in the garden is a great place to ruminate about life. Recently, I found myself thinking about my maternal forebears, especially the story of my great-grandmother, whose life has always been a mystery to our family. Delving into the records of her life has helped make other family members more robust – a case of history illuminating the path ahead. I’ve been thinking, in particular, about her son, my grandfather Richard Victor McGarrigle. He was a great amateur gardener. He believed in order and routine as a basic principle, and would never have had a weed in his vegetable garden. I learnt gardening at his knee. Now I wonder about what his garden meant to him, and where his meticulous devotion to the daily tasks of looking after his plants sprung from. What were his thoughts while gardening?