I’ve had the good fortune to write articles for you for over three years. As I head into retirement this, my hardest yet to write will be my last certainly for a good period of time. In the writing of columns like this, and in our gardens we are but temporary custodians, and we must eventually pass them on to others. Here at Helmsley I have been in the enviable position to be one of a long line of head gardeners and managers going back to the eighteenth century, carrying on the work and the time is right to hand over the baton to another. What went before informs what we do in our gardens but should not constrain us. Nor should we undertake action that constrains those that follow us and once the baton is passed, it must be let go of.
Politicians worry about their legacy, how they will be remembered and what they have changed and achieved. As gardeners, I believe we live in the moment. Yes we need to plan our seed sowing and bulb ordering, (now by the way, is the time to order your summer bulbs) but gardeners live, if not even escape, into the moment. Our minds clear and we focus on the task at hand. We know we will have to return to the busy world we live and work in, but for those precious hours we escape into a place of mindful peace others find elusive.
Those of you who are experienced will know that gardening is a continuous process, it is never finished. In gardening there is an absence of the current linear thinking that assumes you can have a plan with objectives and targets to be achieved, all monitored against a pre-determined timeframe. That is lazy thinking; gardeners immerse themselves in their plots, they become as one with gardens they inhabit.
The evidence would suggest that our climate is changing: however, in the garden the sun will shine and the rain will fall, the snow will lay and the wind will blow, maybe a great deal more of it. But gardeners will still use their skills to grow flowers, vegetables and fruit and others will admire the skills we use and the resilience we demonstrate.
Julie Lawrence has replaced me as manager of Helmsley Walled Garden, Julie comes with considerable experience and success at managing special places of environmental worth and this garden is certainly a special place to many and her custodianship will add to that. Tricia Harris, our Kew-trained gardener has been offered and accepted the opportunity to continue writing articles for you. With a special interest in garden history and the medicinal benefits of gardens and plants you will undoubtedly be amazed and better informed.
For me, I retire to my garden; no great plan, just immersion amongst the plants and wildlife. There to experience the peace and tranquillity I know I will find. To you all I say enjoy your gardening.
Mike I’Anson May 2017