FRESH GREEN MEMORY
The earliest image that I have of it was from the winter a few months after we had moved in. During the move I had been sick, and for weeks afterwards I was not allowed out of the house. By the time I entered what was to become 'the garden' frost had come and the weather was cold.
For the next few months in Valkenswaard I played there, as didn’t know any of the local children.
You could say that my first friend in this new town was the pine tree at the far end of the property.
It was easy to climb, and resilient; a long low branch proved springy enough to bend almost down the ground the further one crawled along, and it smelled heavenly; resinous, moist, fresh, herbal.
Pine tar is difficult to remove, by the way.
During the summers I often hid high up in the cherry trees, near the trunk where the branches formed places to sit. The apple tree was too tall, and the boughs too distant from each other, to be easy to climb.
After several years only the apple tree was left; both cherry trees had been chopped down to allow sunlight in and other things to grow.
My mother planted shrubs throughout for a sloping effect – low growers along the edge of the grass, big dense things graduated behind them, and taller bushes along the wall and the boundary hedges. The trees in the back lot beyond provided further vistas.
My mother had a good eye for garden design.
As her illness got worse I spent an increasing amount of time doing her bidding in the garden, as she directed a planting here, a careful trimming there.
It was her design, but at the end mostly my labour.
I like gardens. That is to say, I still like gardens.
But I think I would prefer a private courtyard, with big potted plants in large tubs, and a pavement of carefully arranged tiles that could be splashed with water to cool them during the summer’s heat.
The nice thing about such a space is that it is more enclosed, and seemingly provides greater peace and quiet.
Sometimes a garden is too much of an open area. Not so private.
But a courtyard is a halfway-house between indoors and out.
It should have a tree, to provide autumn leaves.
Plus a small roofed-over area, so that one may smoke when it rains.
The last time I visited Valkenswaard, I could tell that the apple tree near the stables was still there, and the pine tree at the far end had grown taller.
I do not know what our garden looks like now.
I have not been back since.
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