wallflowers and garden walls

wallflower growing high on red brick wall

From Tom’s Midnight Garden – the vast country-house grounds held trapped in the memory of a tiny city backyard – to The Secret Garden, which Mary Lennox discovers with the help of the robin, to The Selfish Giant‘s garden where Spring will not visit while the children are kept out, there’s something magical about walled gardens.

Not gardens with low walls, with weeds that straggle for attention, or flowers planted deliberately to look out at the passer-by…

plantain and alyssum on concrete wall

daffodils looking over low stone wall

…but gardens enclosed by high walls, which we walk past perhaps without even realising it, and where only the occasional flower tumbles over to offer an idea of the secret world beyond.

clematis trailing against red brick wall

white bell flower growing high on  old stone wall

Ideally, the walls should be stone, I think, although brick can work if it’s thick enough and old and weathered.

hawkweed growing high on old stone wall

wallflower growing high on red brick wall

Access should be through an ivy-covered archway, wisteria-draped wrought iron, or a heavy wooden door that hangs awkwardly from rusted hinges and whose paint flakes with age.


Or perhaps the wind and the rain should tumble the wall and let us in to explore like the children in the Selfish Giant’s garden.

tumbled stone wall

I’m not sure whether the garden loses its magic through the gap, but once the wall is breached, if the stones are left tumbled for long enough, the garden will take them back into itself.

green alkanet and stone wall

But even if the walls remain strong and we only get to imagine what’s behind them, if the garden is old enough, there will always be vagabond plants that hint at what’s on the other side.

dandelions growing high on old stone wall

And sometimes there are plants that will reveal their presence by their scent without us needing to see them – including the aptly named wallflower.

red wallflower

The wall in the poem is not built of bricks and mortar, but it’s solid enough to preserve much of the mystery of the garden.

Beyond the hedge

A wall of leyland cypress shields
the neighbours’ garden

In spring, the scent
of hyacinths seeps
between green

Summer echoes
with splashing water;
glasses clink and voices
rise in laughter

Autumnal winds
toss butterfly-bright leaves
gusting in joyful
skyward spirals

Wood ash flecks
yellow bonfire smoke
scarving chill air

Evergreen sparkles
heavy with the dull weight of snow.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

2 thoughts on “wallflowers and garden walls”

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