Out of nothing came something…Say “hi” to “My Flowerpot Garden”! It’s a little project which has come to mean a lot to me since I started it last spring. Not only has it provided me with a gorgeous green burgeoning windowsillful and a herby harvest, but also enjoyment, relaxation, and a slight sanctuary during a difficult time.
My Flowerpot Garden is a collection of plants growing in pots, all which, with the exception of one, that I have grown from seed. Most of them sit merrily on my windowsill, soaking up any sunshine and warmth that comes their way, and waiting patiently for me to bring them a drink of water. As the weeks and months went by, however, MFG swelled its ranks to include a few larger pots, which split their time between the greenhouse and outside.
For years I have dreamed of growing at least some of my own fruit and vegetables and have also had a particular interest in herbs. However, whenever I have thought about it there has always been some dull, “practical” reason why I couldn’t – or so I thought – take the step at that time. So the dream continued to dangle in the future like the proverbial carrot (pun intended!). Then last year I felt enough was enough, I didn’t want to put it off any longer. I had no idea when conditions would be “right” to start creating a garden of my own, so I thought I’d forget about being practical and try to make a start anyway. Small steps. Get my foot in the door. No, I still had no equipment, experience, space or practical knowledge whatsoever. And not knowing if I would still be living in the same place months later I didn’t want to put a lot of time and work into an outdoor plot only to go and leave it all behind. BUT I DIDN’T WANT TO WAIT. So I needed to put the emphasis, in the short term at least, on plants that I could grow indoors.
It started with a kiss. Sorry, I mean a cress. Cress. It started with a packet of cress seeds, inspired as I was by a childhood memory of growing some on wet kitchen paper in a margarine pot on the kitchen windowsill. The next thing I knew I was perusing – and impulse buying – a neat little three pot herb kit, stockpiling flowerpots of various sizes and staking out my windowsill!
The cast of MFG mainly consists of herbs (thyme, parsley, chives, basil, cress, mint, rocket, sage and rosemary), though there is the odd spice (hot chilli peppers), fruit (a strawberry plant) and a couple of vegetables (carrots and spring onions) tossed in for good measure.
Although I come from farming and gardening stock, herbs have never really featured in the plants and crops that relatives on both sides have sown and reaped. Consequently, I haven’t been the only one learning from the experience. Fortunately, I have quite a long windowsill. Several times a day I must have hovered over my pots, staring imploringly into them for the tiniest glimmer of green, for the slightest sign of life. Throughout the spring and summer the seedlings willingly peeped through the crevasses in the compost, trusting the world outside their pot, twisting their way up towards the sunlight. They must have got a taste for it because it wasn’t long before they gently rose up to admire the beautiful view and to create one of their own. As they outgrew each other, I transplanted the seedlings into more pots, and when they outgrew their pots I transplanted them again. Whenever they needed a drink, the trusty little pink watering can (you have to have a trusty little pink watering can, don’t you?!) was on hand to quench their thirst.
Gradually the space on the windowsill disappeared, and as my plants crept upwards less of the window itself became visible, and with it less of the scene outside. Not that I’m complaining – my new gorgeous green pals filled my senses. As they flourished they not only looked luscious but, as I discovered when I was able to start picking the herbs of my labours, they gave off such a fresh scent that the air seemed to sing with it. Thankfully, they were very tasty, too. Suddenly, I found myself paying more attention to the recipes and meals I created, coming up with new combinations and recipes, and just generally enjoying it all. When autumn was well and truly taking its toll on the surrounding countryside outside, I would look beyond my generously green FG, out of my window at the green leaves surrendering to gold, and golden leaves giving up and fluttering away. It was quite a surprising juxtaposition to see that late in the year, yet provided a relief that not all plants were going to sleep.
Every time I work with my plants I feel calmer, happier, nurtured, sustained. Despite the fact that I’m not growing large quantities of anything (although I got a bit carried away with my parsley, but that’s another story), I feel that even growing a few herbs, vegetables and a little fruit on a small scale is better than not growing any plants at all, not least because it was something I wanted to do so much. Each carrot or handful of chives that I pick feels like a gift, a bonus because it’s one less thing I have to rely on someone else for, and it feels like a little personal victory because I’m learning something new.
When you’ve grown up in a society which almost always has food on the shop shelves it can be easy to forget what a miracle and partnership growing food is. Growing up amongst gardens and fields which my relatives routinely planted seeds in and harvested produce and crops from, year after year, I relished seeing the process at work. My relatives all seemed to know what they were doing and accepted that their efforts would always be at the mercy of the elements. Consequently, I’m ashamed to say that their successes partially de-sensitised me to just how difficult it can be and how special it is to grow food. Though the contents of my small number of flowerpots cannot really compare with fields full of food, through the actions of planting, watching and waiting, and picking, I have, in my own extremely modest way, had the privilege of witnessing this miracle first hand, and that is an experience I am very grateful for.
In the future, I do hope to expand my gardening efforts and knowledge, but so far doing something so natural has been very nourishing for my soul, making me feel closer to nature, which in turn makes me feel closer to God. And because growing plants has been such a big part of the lives of so many members of different generations of my family on both sides, gardening makes me feel closer to them, both to those who are still with me and those who are not. Even the act of watching small seedlings grow and flourish proved comforting when I faced the death of my beloved maternal Grandmother last year, and worked through my grief for her. It may sound flippant but the emotions were weightier. A seedling so tiny was forcing me to remember the obvious: that many things in the world continue to live and to need love and must not be forgotten or neglected even when we feel blindsided by a loss, like a train knocked off its tracks.
Don’t let me make you think that all of my efforts have been successful. Some seeds have never grown and some seedlings have rotted but, even though I hate it when a plant dies , I have always had the opportunity to learn what I might have done wrong so that I can try to do it differently next time.
Maybe my enthusiasm does sound out of scale with the number of plants in My Flowerpot Garden, but what they have given me beyond herbs, vegetables, and the appearance of fruit that I will have to wait for cannot be counted in numbers. Through an age-old activity I have found yet another avenue in life within which to experience hope, patience, novelty, knowledge, wonder, appreciation, comfort, calmness, peacefulness, inspiration and the giving of love, occasional disappointment, but more often joy. In short, I can honestly say that I have reaped more from My Flowerpot Garden than I have sown.