The idea behind this competition is to write a blog post about what inspired your interest in gardening.
Apologies in advance for a longer than usual post but once I got going I couldn't stop.
I've come to the conclusion that my "love" of all things gardening began as a tiny seed set before I was born. Over the years throughout my childhood and adolescent years various gardening encounters gradually fed that little seed until eventually today in my middle age years it has grown into this beautiful bloom.
My first memory of a gardening experience is me as a toddler sitting in a Silver cross type pram watching my dad dig over our RAF garden, when my father left the RAF we moved to Nottinghamshire and our home included a very large back garden which I remember being full of large leaved cabbages and potatoes. My sister and I would spend a lot of time picking the caterpillars of those cabbages and when the time came for the garden remnants to be removed each year we would both help my dad load up the wheelbarrow and walk them up to the landfill. I remember the incentive for this otherwise boring task was the ride back in the wheelbarrow, so much fun at that age. Actually it's still fun now!
My own first real plant came about when I was about 10, I saved a tree from a local area that had just been planted near a huge lake and bought it home for our garden. My parents had no idea what the tree was or how I had come about acquiring it but they planted it amid my excitement. That tree grew and grew and grew until eventually it topped out at about 35ft, it still stands in the back garden of my childhood home as a testament of a childhood once enjoyed there and although my mum had to move from the house recently that tree remains and while it does a piece of me will always be there too.
A love for flowers began the first time I received a bouquet from my boyfriend (now husband) when I was 17 years old. I can still remember the feeling when that bouquet of Roses and Lilies arrived when I was poorly, they lifted my spirits and made me feel completely loved, I suspect that is why even now Roses and Lilies are my favourite flowers of all time.
When we married our first garden was a small square block and we literally just mowed the lawn, we had young twin girls by then and so I had no time to worry about the state of the garden but eventually we moved to a bigger house in Lincolnshire with a much bigger garden and that is where I started to dabble with plants, digging borders and building whatever I needed for the garden.
I remember the astonishment of my neighbours as they saw a young girl laying heavy paving slabs out the front with block edging to create a driveway. My husband is a builder and worked 7 days a weeks so if I wanted these things doing or making I figured I was just as capable as anyone else of learning how to do them.
When we got the opportunity to purchase a property in Caithness with 4 acres of land I was beyond excited - 4 acres meant a huge garden.
I had a rude awakening by about the 3rd year of living here though, most of the plants I bought up from England had died due to the weather conditions and exposure we have here and I was suddenly faced with the fact that I had to learn how to garden all over again. I also realised that patience and perseverance were going to have to become my middle name if I was going to have any kind of garden.
Gone were the days when I could buy any plant that I liked and be pretty sure that it would survive wherever I put it.
Gone were the blowsy flower days too - my precious 'Bishop of Llandaff' had succumbed to the weather.
A new style of gardening was needed but it was still another couple of years before I finally admitted that I was wasting time and money by planting what I wanted rather than what was suitable for the climate and garden conditions.
This garden is where I had my first experience of growing a lawn from seed too. My husband and I purchased what we thought was a big enough bag of seed and I excitedly scattered it over the soil that I had diligently leveled and flattened myself. We checked on that lawn daily and after a few weeks of scrutinizing it from all angles we still could not see one germinated seed. With some disappointment I stomped off to grab the empty seed bag and return it to the shop only to find out that what we had bought - and what we had been waiting to grow - was actually lawn feed not lawn seed. Such a ridiculous mistake to make and one that won't be repeated!
The garden as it stands today is still far from finished, in fact we have just started landscaping a whole new vision.
Rather than a huge expanse of grass surrounded by borders we are creating rooms in our 'L' shaped garden with the intention of each 'room' to have it's own purpose. A patio is one 'room', a pond area will be another room and a fire pit area will be another room and all this landscaping has to incorporate 2 large aviaries that house Eagle owls and a Barn owl.
With my thriftiness and determination to create a beautiful garden in an exposed coastal area that barely gets above 65 degrees ever (and another reason we are incorporating a fire pit) I am propagating all the plants to be used myself.
With windbreak in place and creating sheltered areas I am finally able to grow the plants I thought I never could such as Potentilla 'Monsieur Roubillard', Lavender, Camelia, Fuschia and even Lillies outside.
But the real boon for me along this gardening journey is the ability to grow what we eat. Growing and tending to flowers and shrubs is amazing by itself but to be able put food on the table that is freshly picked, has not travelled hundreds of miles by land or air and whose only carbon footprint is that of mine as I walk it to the house from the vegetable patch is an amazingly satisfying achievement and one I hope to pass on to my grandchildren in the years to come.
I'd like to thank 'Sue Garret' for hosting this competition and for 'Select Furnishings' for offering such an amazing prize.