I think I have mentioned our garden here before, but never in great detail. When we first moved to this flat the back garden was less of a garden and more of a twisted, tangled pile of noxious weeds. We had no idea what was underneath it, and despite the promises of our landlord, we never thought we would find out. But the weeds grew and grew at an alarming rate, perhaps a foot a day during summer. We began to fear they would pull down our already rotting balcony, wrapping their tendrils through its splintered wood until one day when it would collapse beneath us as we hung out our washing. We were worried the neighbours might call the local council complaining of the environmental hazard that lurked, and flourished, I might add, in Thorndon.
Then one day, all the weeds were gone. Just like that, the landlord came. We were not even that worried about the lack of suitable notice. Beneath the mess we discovered a little paved courtyard and four small terraced garden plots. One of the pavers is cracked and the bricks are crooked and chipped, like old teeth. One of the steps near the terrace is ruptured, as if torn in half by an earthquake. But for most of the day it is bathed in sun, perfect for a little garden.
On a beautiful day in early February we set to work tidying, pulling up the snaking roots of the convolvulus with great vigour. We scattered plenty of fertiliser; goodness knows the last time this soil had seen a spade or even sunlight. Francesca, Susan and I planted coriander, oregano, Italian parsley, thyme and mint in our herb terrace. We planted celery and beetroot: possibly a strange combination of vegetables but we had missed the boat on the early summer planting. We added lavender, marigolds, purple pansies and a hydrangea bush for a bit of colour across the terraces.
In the six weeks or so since we planted our garden it has done everything it should. Plants have flowered and grown. The beetroot leaves have deep red veins, the celery is a lovely pale green and the parsley is pratically a bush. We have kept the noxious weeds at bay, turned the soil and reaped the rewards of cooking with our home grown herbs and vegetables. Everything smells fantastic; every time I pick a sprig of thyme or parsley or rosemary I cup my hands, holding the herbs inside and inhale deeply. The sweet, thick fragrance never ceases to make me smile. We grew this!
Our coriander has fared extremely well, perhaps a little too well. It grew with great gusto, more so than we were prepared for. We must have missed the few days when coriander has the slender roots and thin stalks of the sort you find at the market. Ours became woody and tough, the thick branches falling to the ground under their weight. The best way to use it was to make coriander pesto. It is the most brillant green, with light flecks of cashew nut. We have eaten it with pasta and it makes a superb toast spread when paired with goat’s milk feta and tomato.
I’m looking forward to winter planting, and for next spring too. A garden could be just what we need to give us some bearing on Wellington’s mixed up seasons.