For me, my links to gardening always take me to my grandmothers, and my grandfathers too in stories. But both my grandfathers passed; one before I was born and the other when I was quite young, so the gardens were my grandmothers’ domain. They taught me about growing food and the value of beauty.
I’m currently working on my project in Les Quesnoy (which I mentioned in more detail in the winter newsletter). This week was not a great one. Just a couple of months out from when the garden will be opened to the public on the eve of Armistice Day, we were left with a design that despite being relatively basic, was simply unachievable with the funds we have been granted for the project.
We had emailed every MP we could think of, approached the media, contacted countless organisations and groups for support but we simply did not have enough to make it a reality.
Without an approved budget we were unable to order plants or do anything to bring the garden to life. Add to this being a parent in a household that was struck with norovirus, and after three days without sleep or food and an upcoming meeting with our funders, I simply sat down and cried… for a few hours. My stunned husband spent the day emailing more people such as the Prime Minister, (is it normal for a husband to email the prime minister when his wife is inconsolably weeping?).
My friend Lynda rang to do an interview about the garden and ended up consoling my tears and wrapping me up in support.
It made me think what gardening is about to me and to question, what do I believe can bring more joy and pleasure to people, whatever you have in your pocket? It is of course, plants.
So, our team pulled together and we took the last remaining folly out of the garden and now it is a field of plants. Because that’s what the war was to our grandmothers who had nothing while the men scaled the walls and lived in terror. They kept their families fed and clothed and filled with soul by working the land. Already our plantings expressed this koha, a mix of plants that feed, make fabrics and heal, but also give beauty back to the world. Because that’s how gardens make peace and how the women of war bought peace to us all in the worst of times. They not only gave us the comforts of life from what they could grow and nurture, but they also reminded us of beauty and its power to heal and bring us back together.
So now our garden is not just for peace - it’s for all the women who walked before us with little resources and kept us safe and happy, and healed the suffering of their husbands and sons who came home with terror in their dreams, by wrapping them in places made from the earth where tears could be shed behind bushes and could be used to feed the roses.
So, as our grandmothers did, we will garden for peace with the earth and the seeds, and make something to remember them by forever.