At the beginning of this month we passed our first anniversary of living in Scotland, and over the past year I’ve thought a good deal about what it means to be the gardener of a garden you don’t own and ultimately have no rights over. Though we have no rights, we do have a responsibility, outlined in our tenancy agreement, to keep the garden looking as well as it did when we moved in. And in effect, do I have no rights over the rose I planted, or the hellibore, or the crocuses? Could I take them with me if I wanted to?*
Gardening your landlord’s garden means you can’t rearrange things (very much). You have to look after the beastly rhododendrons as though they were your own and feed them with their beastly ericaceous squirt, and you can’t dig up and replace the sickly roses in case they have sentimental value, and you can’t chuck out the concrete slabs or relocate the disproportionately large shed that some half-wit built slap in the sunniest spot of the garden. And even if the landlord said, yes, please do anything you like to the garden, you can’t because it means spending hundreds on a garden that is not yours.
On the other hand, gardening your landlord’s garden means not having to make decisions, learning to make the best of the situation you’re stuck with, delighting over the unexpected springing up of plants that previous tenants have planted, imagining the delight of future tenants when the bulbs and plants that you planted push through the soil, and finally the freedom to make mistakes and have a practice run before you get a garden of your own.
Which leads me to… I hardly dare say it. In fact, I’d better keep quiet for fear of tempting fate. Only I’ve been taking cuttings (these photos are of cuttings of this purple clematis and also some of Left Neighbour’s clematis; the copper tape supposedly stops the snails) just in case I might need to populate a purely hypothetical garden belonging to a purely hypothetical flat that The Brazilian and I may or may not have had an offer accepted on. Hypothetically.
*An academic question because I don’t want to; they belong where they’ve been planted. I once read a forum thread on Money Saving Expert about gardeners who were selling up, asking if it was unethical to remove and take with them all the expensive plants they’d planted in the garden. Imagine! It made me sick to think of the poor buyers turning up all delighted and excited about the mature garden they’d bought along with the house, then getting there to find acres of bare earth.