Lucy Corry’s Blog: A cure for garden heartbreak

Lucy Corry heals her heartbreak with an off-site garden adventure.

Heartbreak comes in many flavours. In autumn, when you realise all the fruit trees you planted at your old house will be laden with precious cargo, it tastes like regret seasoned with salty tears.

I was never a diligent gardener (I leave that to experts like the lovely Lynda Hallinan), but I definitely put the hours in at our old property. In return, it did its best to produce fruit, flowers and wonky-shaped vegetables, along with self-seeding natives and every invasive weed known to humankind.

We had figs, feijoas, apples, quince, mandarins and red currants, plus a towering mountain papaya that bore tropical-scented fruit. And dozens of cape gooseberries, like little presents to eat as you walked up the steps from the vegetable garden with an armful of abundant parsley.

Of course I’m choosing not to remember the blighted lemon tree (total production: one lemon in nine years), the blueberries (died the summer they were planted) and the prickly gooseberry (productive, but planted in a mostly inaccessible spot and thus feasted on by birds).

But I haven’t forgotten the hours and hours we put into that garden and the skips we filled with flax, agapanthus, scratchy hebes, gnarled ropes of ivy and pointless weedmat. Or the arguments about pruning hedges, which seemed scarily reminiscent of conversations between my parents about pruning roses. Never trust a husband with a hedge trimmer is my motto.

Anyway, when we moved to our new house, which sits on a pocket handkerchief section, I thought I was glad that all that was behind me. Suddenly weekends would open up; I would be one of those people that sits and reads in a deckchair in their garden instead of working in it.

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Then I realised something was missing. It wasn’t just the plant life; it was the actual act of getting my hands dirty, the joy of planting something and the satisfaction of a good weeding session. I felt bereft and confused. Had we made a fatal error?

My husband (who had gifted his hedge trimmer to the new owners of our old house without so much as a backwards glance) thought I was soft in the head. He pointed out all the new things we could plant in our tiny garden without the slog of the old. So I duly went off and planted my new vegetable garden in a raised bed about a metre off the ground. Then the teenage dog proudly dug them up.

There are few things more infuriating than seeing your dog having a lovely time chasing the green fruit he’s pulled off your precious two tomato plants. He ignored the thyme, but made short work of digging up basil, lettuce seedlings and a row of bee-friendly alyssum. He would have made less mess if I’d just given him a $50 note to chew.

The solution, so far, has been to take my gardening aspirations off-site. More specifically, I’m taking them up the road to a gorgeous community garden hidden away in the slopes of Wellington’s Mt Victoria.

Innermost Gardens has been in operation since 2006 yet it remains one of the capital’s best-kept secrets. Here, willing volunteers have transformed a former bowling green into a lush and mostly edible oasis.

There are various ways to participate, but even walking through it is exceptionally soothing. One of the most satisfying and useful ways to contribute is to drop off food scraps in the compost bins. The resulting compost is used on the garden beds and is hugely successful at reducing waste – this January alone a tonne of food waste was saved from going to landfill.

A small section is set aside for paid allotments — one of which I am now the proud caretaker of. The allotment ‘owner’, ‘Lucie’, is stuck somewhere overseas as a result of Covid-19-related border closures and her much-neglected allotment needs a lot of love.

Since neglected gardens are my speciality, I think I’m more than equal to the task. It will be a long time before I get it looking as beautiful as some of the other allotments, but everything has to start somewhere.

By the time it’s thriving and productive, Lucie might be back from her travels and want it back. But I’m willing to cope with that heartbreak when it happens.


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