Someone else's dream
Carly Thomas continues her chaotic journey since buying a grand-old country house and garden in rural Manawatu.
COUNTRY HOUSE: I have something to admit. A confession of sorts. It's something I didn't realise until I was having a mad and ferocious natter with someone I had just met.
Talk, as it very often does these days, had turned to my house. It started with the usual banter about how it was Nancy's for decades and how I had taken on her significant garden.
We talked about daffodils and the persistence of weeds and then I realised something out loud.
"I've done this before."
It wasn't until after I uttered those words I realised; I had. The first house we ever bought was a little old gem. A cottage just up the road in Kimbolton. And that house, like this one, was always someone else's.
It was Ruby McGhee's. She had lived her whole life in the dot of a cottage that looks like a child's drawing of a house and it was, and in my mind still is, Ruby's house.
That house was Ruby's and this house is Nancy's. I have done it again.
The gardens are both epic and all I want is for them to be as they were when those two women stood back, hands on hips, and thought "yes, this is a thing of beauty". It's an intangible "maybe next season" kind of dream, but it's a dream at least. And to be a gardener, you have to be a head-in-the-clouds dweller.
They might have known each other, those two hard-working women. Ruby's garden has a different personality to this one. She liked cottage perennials, pastels, love-in-a-mist, pansies and a delicate palette.
Ruby was soft edges and curves. An old photo of her vegetable garden showed self-containment, hard work and dirt-under-the-fingernails practicality.
Nancy's garden is bolder, bigger in the impression it leaves, more sweeping in the motion it creates. But they may have compared dahlias, swapped bulbs and drunk tea. They just might have been friends.
Ava was a baby when I took on Ruby's dirt. And it's what I did all day, pretty much every day.
Ruby's garden was long neglected, the meandering beds had to be found underneath well-heeled undergrowth. It was more archaeological digging than gardening for the first year, but it was the first house we loved and the first garden I lost sleep over.
And I didn't think about it until today and even then, it was an accidental, snuck-up-from-behind sort of a thought. I look after other people's gardens and I try to keep them just as they were.
And maybe someday someone will do the same for me. See what I saw, dream what I dreamt.