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…
…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.
Ideally, the walls should be stone, I think, although brick can work if it’s thick enough and old and weathered.
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.
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.
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.
And sometimes there are plants that will reveal their presence by their scent without us needing to see them – including the aptly named 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
with splashing water;
glasses clink and voices
rise in laughter
toss butterfly-bright leaves
gusting in joyful
Wood ash flecks
yellow bonfire smoke
scarving chill air
heavy with the dull weight of snow.