In my well-beloved Leith flat, I shared with seven sets of neighbours a scrubby wasteland out the back, recipient of rubbish thrown from the street, shards of glass and broken concrete slabs. We found a skeleton there – animal – small dog, perhaps, or fox. I would go outside with headphones and gloves, blast Queen, and optimistically clear rubbish. Where weeds grew, so could wildflowers.
Here, the house has a third of an acre, an old term for what feels like an infinity of space after the city. When Mum and A first arrived it was a wilderness with an impenetrable thicket of brambles two inches thick at the base, metres long and vicious as you like. Sleeping Beauty, eat your heart out. (Sometimes I think she just wanted some peace, and who could blame her?). The blackberries were huge, shiny and juicy sweet.
The wilderness for which the house is named is tamed a little now, though everything grows fast here. I wonder how long it would take for it all to disappear, like a fairy tale or like Day of the Triffids. I loved, was haunted by, the scene of London all overgrown by trees. I sometimes imagined Edinburgh like that, looking down at rows of roofs and treetops from the top of the Crags.
The front garden now is full of flowers, the lawn mowed, daffodils deadheaded. Today we planted geraniums in pots beside the door. Is it only me that hates the smell? Counteracting it, the rich, gorgeous tang of woodchip as I take damp dark handfuls, cover the earth near the pond. It smells like Drumlanrig Castle adventure playground and a million games of hide and seek or shots on the flying fox.
In the centre of the garden is a circular bed like a well, built from old stone one weekend last year. Wallflowers are blooming, a glorious riot of colour. A talks about taking some out, about colour schemes and clashing. I cannot wait for the bright pink to join the yellow and orange and the purple heather that has been in bloom since September. Several types of bee busy themselves amongst the flowers. We have a bee chart, make plans to start identifying them.
Today, the smell of oil-seed rape is as cloying and pervasive as that of weed or bad perfume, filling the garden and finding its way into the house. One day I sneeze from dawn until past dusk, tears streaming from my eyes as I blame the pollen count. Fortunately, the sneezes have now subsided.
I am learning all the time, the ways of earth and plants and the history of weeds (ground elder came with the Romans; ‘what have the Romans ever done for us?’). I mix earth with compost and sand – not ‘sharp’ sand, but ‘soft’, and I nod as if I understand. Gravel for drainage, coffee granules for rhododendrons and azaleas. I sand down and repaint the forest cart, our faithful trundler of wood from gate to door. We pot tomatoes and courgettes in the greenhouse and pluck grass from around the fruit tree shoots to clear space for them. I love this learning to grow food. I think, I cannot wait for harvest, then think, by then I’ll have moved on. But the perennials will flower again, fruit again, and I’ll be home for another harvest.