A LITTLE BACKGROUND
To begin with, I would like to express how infinitely grateful I am for having a garden! I love that we can step out into our own tiny little corner of the great outdoors. We can use it at any time of day and in any way we want, while showing some consideration to our dear neighbours, of course.
I haven’t posted much about our garden here on the blog yet (though it features in my post about Settling into Our New Home), but if you follow us on Instagram and/or facebook, you might have noticed that quite a few of my photos recently have been of things we’ve been up to in this new garden of ours. After living without a garden for about 15 months, we’re now really enjoying to once again have the freedom of our own outside space!
However, the garden we had at our house in Sweden, which we left in late December 2016, was in many ways different to what we’ve got now. I often find myself comparing our current garden to our old one, even though I generally prefer to focus on where we are right now. So I guess what this post is about – other than showing you two different gardens and some of the things they could be used for – is closure.
When we were deciding on our move back to the UK, leaving the garden was one of our biggest issues, especially as it was such a great garden for Penguin. So to find a new place for us which has a garden has been a very important goal for us. And now we’ve got one! However, it’s much smaller than our old one, and with more and closer neighbours, so to recreate what we used to have is not an option. I think we need to let go of that ideal picture of what our garden should be, and focus on what we’ve got and how to best use this little space of ours. So with this post, I bid farewell to our old garden, and look forward to a growing (ta-daa!) relationship with this new one.
WHAT WE HAD AND WHAT I (WE) LOVED ABOUT IT
1: A Sensory Playground
The garden was a great multisensory playground! This was the main reason why our decision to leave it was difficult. When we moved in, there was already a wide range of flowers, bushes and trees in the garden as well as a small pond. The garden wasn’t huge, but large enough to roam around in, with room for several different types of areas. Over the years we added a climbing frame/treehouse construction with a slide and swings, a herb garden, a swimming pool, a spinning platform (which we then put a spinning char on top of!) and of course the all important trampoline, which definitely is one of the best things we’ve ever bought. We also extended the pond, removed some old and not entirely healthy trees, and added some fencing, borders etc. In the end, with great help from what was already there from the start, we had a garden which offered pretty much every kind of sensory stimulation: Visual, tactile, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, vestibular and proprioceptive, it was all there to be enjoyed in many different forms!
For a child with sensory processing issues, who can really benefit from regular sensory input in various forms (in Penguin’s case the need for proprioceptive input is particularly great, but also vestibular), this was a great environment, rich in sensory stimulation without being overwhelming (as long as the weather was reasonably calm).
2: Free Access to Food and Flowers
There were so many plants to harvest, for eating or flavouring things with, or for their scent and beauty! Again, a lot of these things were already in place when we moved in: Rhubarb, apples, strawberries, gooseberries, woodruff, calendulas, horseradish, plums, raspberries and more. We added the herb garden, and also grew some vegetables, like carrots, beans, beetroot, potatoes and zucchini. Even though Penguin’s still a very selective eater, I feel that having all those edible items growing right in front of him was helpful in getting him to try new textures and flavours.
I also think that you get a great feel for the changing seasons when you have a lot of different things growing in your garden, like the first shoots of rhubarb in the spring and all the apples in the autumn, the heavy scent of woodruff in the spring and the beauty of Chinese anemone flowers lit by the evening sun of the autumn.
3: The Wildlife on Our Doorstep
We frequently had close encounters with frogs, toads, larvae, beetles, spiders (I don’t like spiders… ugh!) hedgehogs, slugs and snails, bees, butterflies, moths, worms, ants, etc. We also had newts living in our (rather damp) cellar!
There was a rich birdlife including birds of prey, with red kites being one of the more common birds in our neighbourhood. In the surrounding fields we’d see deer and hares, and sometimes wild boar (and one afternoon we had an escaped cow joyfully galloping past, making the most if her freedom!). We also had a couple of visits by slow worms, fascinating creatures.
Our garden was semi-wild in parts, and was a living space for the animals as much as for us. It was great to have constant access to a little bit of wilderness like this, and we enjoyed showing Penguin all these little creatures we’d come across (most of which he wasn’t that bothered with though to be honest, ha!).
4: A Happy Space, for Relaxing, Unwinding, Recharging and Living
We got so much joy out of the garden. And there were times when seeing Penguin bouncing around joyfully on his trampoline, or us having a swim and a splash about in the pool together, were the things that made life seem worth living. In some ways I think the garden really stands out as our ‘happy space’ because we were unhappy about many other aspects of our lives. That doesn’t change the fact that it was a lovely place to hang out, to relax and recharge our batteries, and to enjoy spending time together.
We also had some great views over the surrounding fields, especially from Penguins ‘tree house’ (more like a tree balcony really)…
…and on a few occassions we’d venture out into those fields for a little explore
This picture below sums up quite well what the garden meant to me, as well as to us as a family. It’s the view from our back door on an evening in September. There are signs of the activities which have been going on in the garden: A towel and some swimwear hanging over the chairs, the shed door open, a couple of old windows leaning against the table. We’ve been busy living. Now the sun is setting, I can feel the calm of the evening, and my eyes can rest for a moment on the horizon while I take a few deep breaths. Relax, recharge.
SO, WHAT HAVE WE GOT NOW?
Well… in short, this:
The two pictures above were taken about a week after we moved in in March, so I have to say it’s looking a lot greener now. But I think you can see why I’ve found myself looking back at what we had. And it’s not just the size and the lack of plant life. It’s also the fact that it’s not as private as the old garden, where we only had one old man and his cat as close neighbours, whereas now there are three other households sharing garden fences with us. And while the old house and garden were our own, we’re ‘only’ renting this one, which makes us think a little bit differently about what changes are worthwhile making.
Despite all this, I do think we can make this garden work well for us. Actually, in many ways it already is:
We’ve been using it for quite a few activities lately…
…and the garden certainly has more life in it than it looked like in march. Best surprise so far is that one of the bushes turned ot to be a lovely magnolia. On the downside, the wonderfully rich birdlife here means a lot of birdpoo… and the odd casualty from nesting birds on the roof (I’ll spare you any pictures of those latter things).
Perhaps most importantly, Penguin’s beloved trampoline is back in use, everyday. And the view from it is pretty spectacular too!
So, as I said earlier, this post works as a kind of closure on what we had. And having listed the main purposes which the old garden filled for us, I can now see more clearly how some of those aspects can be brought into our new garden. And some things we can leave behind, and just look back on as sweet memories.