Our Suffolk Cottage Garden: 2020

I had so many plans for progressing the garden, this year. I recall thinking about some of my plans, on New Years Eve, as I thought happily about the year ahead. Ten days later, my beautiful mum died!

I lost all sense of time. My world changed. Initially, I was in such shock that my garden was pretty much forgotten. I was feeling grief like I had never known, and I have experienced much grief in my life. This was wholly different; on another scale. Everything was changed by this unexpected, catastrophic loss. Gardening….what was that? It did not even seem to register with me.

Yet, somehow I found myself as if wrapped in a comforting blanket, each time I stepped outside into the garden. The birds still came to the garden. The insects still came. The plants, blossoms and flowers still arrived as the weather began to warm and as spring brought with it the hope of bright summer days ahead. Spring is the signpost for summer that offers a lift out of the dark, cold seasons. Life was in abundance, in the garden, and it was this sense of life that I so needed. It was like an awakening; gently enticing me to emerge ever more from the huge sense of grief that had enshrouded me.

Little by little, I would start tidying the garden; a little weeding here and there and then the wheels were set in motion. I was soon needing little trips to local garden centres and before I knew it, I was avidly gardening; creating the outdoor space that would serve as my sanctuary for the remainder of the year. Indeed, our garden is something I always consider to be a sanctuary.

It is a place of peacefulness and enjoyment. It is restful, restorative and healing. It is a place for ‘headspace’; thinking time and reflection. It is a social space and it is where our dogs also enjoy resting and playing. Little did I realise just how much of a sanctuary the garden would be in this tumultuous year. Not only had my world been so changed by the loss and then absence of my mother, but soon the entire United Kingdom, and then the world, would be plunged into a new reality that would see us all confined to our homes!

Yes, this was the year that the Covid-19 pandemic hit our world and we would come to not just value our garden as we do, but we would recognise just how very lucky we are that we have our own outdoor space. The Government instigated ‘lockdown’; people were effectively confined to home for months upon months. Our garden was never more a sanctuary than in this bizarre, sad and certainly concerning year of dramatic events.

Lockdown, of course, created major restriction and so the opportunity to visit a garden centre diminished significantly. There would be pockets and windows of time in which we could get out to a garden centre but for me, given that I have Parkinson’s Disease, I had decided to largely remain at home and shield from other people. This was advice served by Parkinson’s UK, rather than by the NHS, but it made sense to me. People with Parkinson’s have a propensity toward infection and so I would be safest remaining at home and away from the public.

This propelled me to do a few things, in the garden. One, was that I decided to try to propagate more of my plants. This certainly helped me fill out the planting over the year, without necessarily going out to buy new plants. Second, was that I decided to give more seriousness to our little veggie patch and so I planted herbs and veg into the patch and worked hard all year to ensure that it continued producing for us, right until the cold seasons hit. My thoughts here were simply that we may face product supply problems, in the food chain, and so growing our own produce; even the relatively small amount I grew, would be helpful. I also had our pretty little cherry tree cut down and removed, for it started to die. This was sad but necessary.

I actually did get a lot from the veg patch this year. These were the usual culprits; beans, onions, garlic, bell peppers, chillies, courgettes, rhubarb, cabbage, marrow, squash, tomatoes and herbs that included parsely, rosemary, oregano, chives and thyme. Remember, my veg patch is only around 4ft x 5ft and yet it produced well for us. I recommend you include a veggie patch in your garden, if possible. There is something so satisfying about producing your own food.

Given the state of the country, with the global pandemic affecting us all, and my generally bewildered state of grief, 2020 was not a very productive year in the garden. Most of what I managed to achieve was simply about maintenance rather than development. That’s okay. Sometimes life throws difficult things our way and if all we are able to do is the basics, the minimum or the generally practical, then we have still done well to accomplish that much.

Kevin did also manage to get something accomplished. He built us a new garden table, as our existing table had really reached a point where it was falling apart. The new table was a beautiful addition to our patio area and this served us well as a place to enjoy long locked-down evenings in the garden and, when lockdowns were not in place, a great social space for us to welcome loved ones to.

In terms of development, I did try something. I decided to see how well a little pond might do in our garden; ie. would it attract wildlife? I made use of the dog pool and some old terracotta pots that had broken, for edging. I also decided to add a new flower bed in the centre of the garden perimeter, to see how well these did. Take a look at my forthcoming post about Our Suffolk Cottage Garden: 2021. When that is published, you will see whether these ideas came to anything permanent.

How was your 2020? Do you have an outside space to tend? How was your own gardening regime affected by the onslaught of the Covid-19 virus? Have you experienced loss and grief and then found it difficult to do much more than simply maintain your garden? How did you manage and cope? Please feel free to share your own experiences, in the space below.


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