Monday, 27 September 2010


Every day, for the fifteen years that I had the privilege to work at Compton Acres, on entering and walking along the very first path that leads you into this as it was then...'other world', I would be faced with two bronze plaques embedded into the purbeck stone walling. One would have the poem entitled 'The Kiss of the Sun', by Dorothy Gurney, and the other had a slogan by a famous safe maker called Chatwood Milner that went thus:

"Achievement is but another milestone on the highway of progress. The end of the journey lies ever beyond".

Although I think that just about everyone knows the first one, Mr.Milners is a little more obscure.
It's wording has stuck in my mind ever since, as it really does epitomise the work of a gardener.
A garden is never 'finished', and indeed never should be. Things grow in size and shape, designs get changed, shrubs moved and dead things replaced. Even in the larger and more fixed estates featuring lanscaping by the likes of Capability Brown, watercourses are cleared and new tree plantings are made on a frequent basis, even though from a distance the overall effect looks the same.
And so it is that as gardeners, we will always perhaps feel that even though the season is ending, and mountains of leaves are cleared and things pruned down and tidied up, that the garden is in effect 'finished'.
It will of course never be finished, just put to rest until the whole cycle starts up all over again, and again, and again, and will indeed see both you and me off, and the next gardener, and the next gardener and so on. But isn't that just perfect? After all, we are not manufacturers of any retail product that is forgotten once sold, or builders of houses that at some day in the future will be pulled down, but custodians of something that is never really 'ours'. Something very precious indeed that can reduce us to tears, but more often lift our eyes and hearts with it's beauty.
And so my friends, when you are buried up to your necks in leaves this autumn, cursing the wind and sobbing at the broken rake handle, remember that if you are lucky, you may just get to do it all over again next year, and the year after.......and the year after that!

The picture is of the Boston Ivy growing all over our house, just before the leaves fall.


  1. A very thoughtful post Gary. Bit like the Chinese dragon at New Year - spend ages making it only for it to be destroyed when the festivities end, as a sign that the works of man are but temporary. Keep up the good work meanwhile!


  2. Hi Laura,
    Indeed, very much like the Chinese dragon. I think that one has to not lose sight of the fact that even the gardens at our own homes and work will someday be tended by someone else long after we ourselves have gone.

  3. Gary,
    What a great post to be reading this rainy and cold morning. With the reminder that work in the garden is never truly completed it comes with knowledge that there are others who know it likewise. It is a wonderful thing to share a common bond with others, to know that we are not alone in the wilderness so to speak. As I read your post it's as if I am walking down the same garden path with you. Nodding in agreement with all said. And allowing a chucle to escape when reading of sobbing over a broken rake handle. These are experiences as gardeners we all share.

    Thank you for a moment of reflection and pause, to remember the important things about being a caretaker. Hoping your week is a pleasant one and that you trod through it with no broken handles befalling you.

    Have a good day. - G

  4. Oh so true - we are custodians for something that is never really ours. Maybe one of the things I love most about gardening.

  5. Very nice...all that we see with our eyes , all that we tend , is in cycles of life . Seasons of life . We truly ' own ' nothing but our own hearts, all else , everything, belongs to God .

  6. What a delightful sentiment with which to start my day!

  7. Dear Gary, I am with you. Gardening for me is all about the journey not the destination. There are always new plants to try, new seeds to sow, new plans to make......and, as you say, the seasons turn and bring with them the reassurance of familiarity. To work at such close quarters with nature is a privilege and one which all true gardeners, such as you, cherish!

  8. Hi Gary,
    It's always a surprise just how extreme emotions can run sometimes, over this 'charge' that never belongs to us anyway.

  9. Hi Ginny,
    I totally agree with you!

  10. Hi Gina,
    I am so glad not to be Him upstairs. Can you imagine trying to orchestrate the whole thing to make it so perfect? Back down here on earth, when the leaves are falling amidst the wind and rain, and I am waving my rake around uselessly, I do ask out loud if He is having a laugh with me sometimes.

  11. Hi Tim,
    That darned plaque always had me start the day 'in my place'! Loved every day though!

  12. Hi Edith,
    There are indeed so many changing aspects to a garden. Absolutely nothing really stays still does it? Putting the tough days aside, it really is a privilege to do this work.