At our current home we have a little courtyard area, where I have collected a number of plants in pots, in order to experiment and easily study them, while I learn about plant habits in the British climate. Gardening here and learning to live here is a challenge unlike any I have known, and having my most special plants in a protected environment around me helps to ease the transition at times. It would have been easier learning to garden productively in the northern hemisphere first, and then going to live and garden in the southern hemisphere, but my life has worked the other way around. So, for now I am learning the harder way, but the lessons are, at last, reaping bountiful rewards.
Besides being a study zone and handy to the house, there is another reason why the little courtyard, which still houses the original cobbled floor stables, is used as a sanctuary for my pot plants, one that is a deeper, more personal reason … perhaps I shall write that story another day. The photograph above hints at the part-wilderness, which I have allowed freedom in the enclosed courtyard space. Whilst not entirely private, it has become a space that, for me at least, offers solace to the soul. The growing numbers of wild creatures that join me there seem to think so too.
About a year ago, I bought two fairly large pots of blackcurrants, from a small local nursery who pride themselves on growing their own. They are not an organic nursery, which I would naturally prefer, but a small concern who deserve local support and whose heart is definitely in the right place. Much of what the nursery sells is for the benefit of bees, butterflies and ladybirds, which is what appealed to me when I first saw their sign, and curiously followed a road I had never been on, in order to discover who and what they were. Having semi-nursed my original two small pots of blackcurrants through a few ferocious Winters here, I know that without some proper care or replanting their fruiting days are numbered, so I was delighted to discover, at very little cost, the big black pots of prolifically fruiting blackcurrants. Can you imagine the impossibility of resisting such delights?
Over the past nine years, since setting off from Australia (where I’d lived in a fairly un-rooted way for fourteen years), leaving behind (more like “being dragged away from”) a rather substantial, elegant and valuable plant collection, I have almost sub-consciously amassed an impressive (or obsessive) number of new botanical treasures. Plants are my one true and enduring ‘weakness’, that is clear. Other than providing bird seed and fresh water, I have learnt to leave wildlife to take care of itself, and to let others adopt needy stray creatures, but I still find it impossible to walk blindly past a beautiful plant. Thus, despite my meagre spare means and full intentions not to collect any more botanical treasures on that day, a plant that was not only beautiful, but also fruiting prolifically in a pot, providing food at a cheaper rate than a bought beef burger, meant that it was coming home with me – and that was that.
If truth be told, I hardly expected the two tempting blackcurrant bushes (yes, two, not one) to make it through the Winter – they looked too lush to be hardy – but could only hope and see. I told myself that, if they did not survive, I could reuse their large pots – perhaps even for the blackcurrants I already had, which remain pot bound and awaiting roots-into-soil release. Well, my hope was not in vain: this year the lush new blackcurrants’ bounty has been tremendous, and so I set myself up to harvest each pot’s offering in style … as you can see!
I realise that, without proper care, there is little chance that any of my potted blackcurrants will continue to prolifically produce and that, if they are going to live in pots ad infinitum, I shall have to manage their living conditions appropriately, of course. I have also learnt that one has to make the most of what Nature offers when it offers it, a lesson not always fully appreciated in the southern hemisphere, where so much grows all year round. I have learnt too that, when the sun shines, one must go outside and make the most of it … it so rarely shines in the part of Britain where we live … and being outdoors, gardening or harvesting in the very long colder months, for a warm-blooded creature like me, is nigh on impossible.
Thus, despite eating almost the same amount as that which I harvested, while comfortably seated and soaking up the sun’s gorgeously balmy rays, I have squirrelled away into our little deep freezer about four punnets full of delicious, juicy, fruity, vitamin-packed organic blackcurrants, and am incredibly proud of myself!