Some garden are yours for only a brief time .
After Costa Rica there were three short lived gardens.
The first was in Cheltenham, England and was basically a window box overlooking a courtyard. In a small space I kept hebes and cyclamens and tolerant bulbs. In the shelter of a town and the lea of an old building they flowered all year, untroubled by the cold and frosts of the real countryside. For the first time I understood the improbable things that are grown on upmarket London city balconies shielded from the seasons. The flat was in a Georgian town house with great high ceilings and long shutters and along the front balcony wisteria grew. Most of the year wisteria is an unpreposessing green vine, but for two weeks in the spring it blossomed forth with pendant purple flowers that filled the room with the fabulous, heady smell of honey.
The next garden was in Spain.
A slab of bare dry earth surrounded by a wire fence at the back and a slice of an almond orchard at the front.
It was the end of summer and nothing was growing. To water plants in a town where toilets were flushed with sea water would have been criminal and so I saved every drop of water we washed clothes and dishes in and showered stood in buckets to catch the used water. All of this saved water was thrown on the dry “garden” and soon seeds began to germinate and morning glory started to clothe the ugly fence with green and flowers. We were allowed to harvest the ripe almonds and we managed to crack the hard shells in the jamb of the front door and roast the nuts slowly in the oven after soaking in salted water. As the world is a stranger and more dangerous place than we often think, we did not stay long enough to watch this garden grow and left with only a couple of bags of salty nuts to remember it by.
Back in Cheltenham again, we took possession of an unassuming flat with a tiny balcony, just big enough for a single chair. I ranged narrow planters on the edge and clipped pots to the rails and in the next summer grew geraniums and nasturtiums and a wonder wall of perfumed sweet peas that leaned gratefully on the rails and provided a little display of flowers for the table for what seemed like months. From the balcony we watched the fire works that declared the millennium and waited for the world to end when the computers stopped working, but it didn’t.