"The garden must first be prepared in the soul first or else it will not flourish," states a famous English proverb. Whether it is a flower box hanging from an apartment window, a small garden behind a modest home or acres and acres of manicured public parks the green spaces in England are kept with the upmost care.
“Everything is so green and it looks like somebody organised it with a ruler,” commented my wife as we flew over south England coming into land. She was right, from the air parts of England look like a huge patchwork quilt, a cornucopia of greens, browns and yellows. Just about everyone has a garden of some sorts. Of course one of the reasons why my wife was right is that there is certainly enough rain to keep everything in bloom.
As we picked up the rent a car and made our way further south to my family we soon got off the major roads and into the wilds. Within a short space of time we saw pheasants, foxes and deer roaming close to the road, and even on it. Green fields as far as the eye could see, every inch of the land worked in some agricultural manner. I couldn’t help thinking that Slavonia, or even the fields of Konavle, should look like this. There is no abandoned hectare. From cattle to crops every inch is used. And in the spaces where nothing will grow then farmers “plant” another type of money spinner – solar panels. Great waves of black panels feeding the electrical grid.
Arriving in my mother’s village every home has a display of flowers, my own mother’s garden has so many that you have expect Sir David Attenborough to appear from the foliage filming a nature documentary. After a couple of days my mother suggested “Why don’t we visit a garden today.” Surrounded by gardens already my wife raised her eyebrows. But this was no ordinary garden. Within almost walking distance of her house is one of the crème de la crème of English gardens, Rosemoor. The Royal Horticultural Society own and look after over 200 gardens in the UK and they are the utopia of English gardens. As it was a rainy day I have expected us to be the only ones there, wrong, it was packed. We paid our 11 pound entrance fee (make your own judgment in comparison to the City Walls) and entered a masterpiece.
If gardening was a work of art, then we were looking at a Monet. Even my young niece, who was at first less than impressed to be walking in a “boring garden,” soon changed her tune and was exploring. You have never seen lawns like this before, they looked flatter and smoother than a snooker table. The work that goes into keeping these gardens immaculate is endless. The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.
We turned a corner and I saw one example. A gardener was cutting the hedge that divided one garden from the next. This hedge was over two metres tall and at least the same width. It stretched for over 200 metres and yet it was perfectly measured as if cut from stone. The rest of my family had wandered away but I was mesmerized by the gardener. He was trimming the top, but every now and then he would stop and run his eye along the top to make sure it was straight.
But it still seemed strange to me that he could get the whole hedge so perfect. That was until he pulled out a sprit level and laid it on top of the hedge to make sure that it was 100 percent flat and straight. The same spirit level that builders use to check walls this rain-soaked gardener was using to check his green hedge. This hedge was probably over 50 years old, so somebody before him had presumably done the exact same thing. Years and years of constant care and hard work.
And on that grey overcast day I was remembered of all the hard work, tradition, dedication and care that it takes to make things work. There is no overnight, magical cure for anything. Whether you are trying to build a business, attempting to lose weight, raising your children or indeed running a country. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was Rosemoor. As a wise author once wrote “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”