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Why love and gardening always grow together | Allan Jenkins | Life and style


Valentine’s week. Red roses incoming, but what to talk about when we talk about love? I am not here to tell you not to buy roses (well I am, but in bushes in season please). I thought instead to explore my love for gardening, how it happened. How, although I am attracted to its essential solitary nature, it can be enhanced when I am sharing its pleasure with someone.

With Mary, who lets us grow on part of Plot 29. For my simple joy of working alongside her, without much time for chat, though humping manure helps, a little heavy lifting. And her quiet companionship.

With Howard, a gardening hero. Gifted with a truthful eye, the ability to see beauty obscured by surroundings, an appreciation of becoming – the essence of gardening – encouraging seedlings to grow, to make a home.

With Henri, who cleverly avoids the allotment, but has an architect’s eye with plants, finding their place, an expression of space. We work harder together at the beach hut, reshaping, rewilding, planting trees, bushes, naturalising bulbs, pulling up brambles (though she’s more impatient with weeds than me). The work of letting in light.

One of the things that links gardening with these three is the lack of a need to talk (a weakness with me). Here, garden chatter is largely left to the birds.

Looking back: with Dudley, my foster father, who worked us hard with rakes and sheers and mowing grass. More concerned with making his garden mark than me, but gifting his love of working with land. He was maybe better with inanimate objects than boys, but expert in making safe space. I owe him everything.

Finally, with Christopher, my late brother, who haunts me. I will grow our first flower seeds together for ever. With love. With all my heart.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.79 from guardianbookshop.com

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