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Jane Simmonds has watched her small city garden take off over the last four years, but now sheís off to the country. Whatís it like to say goodbye?

This is the last week in my flat, where I have lived for four years, and my long, thin garden, the first Iíve had. Itís been a haven from the busy shops and roads nearby, though the London reality of a haven is probably different from elsewhere Ė kebab aromas mingle with lilies, nuts, bolts and small car parts keep turning up in the soil, and cats race through, knocking down pots.

At the far end of the 50-ft long, walled garden are two plums, two apples and a pear tree Ė all covered with blossom in spring, and fruit erratically in autumn. Shade-loving plants eke out an existence under the trees Ė hardy geraniums, comfrey and bulbs dominate, and some ferns grow slowly in the dry soil. The compost heap is here, too.

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Nearer to the house is an area of lawn fringed by borders Ė the less unkempt, sunnier area. In the past year, it has started to look more established, with shrubs and perennials bulking out, and the climbers and roses growing more vigorously and starting to flower more freely. A fig tree and grape vine were already here when I arrived, and they are thriving, making lush, rampant growth all summer. The grapes never ripen, but there are quite a few figs, if the two resident blackbirds donít get to them first. Before I go, Iím trying to tidy it up for the winter so that the new occupants wonít have too much to do. Itís difficult cutting back perennials in September, when they have hardly started dying back.

I love the familiarity of this garden, the fact that I have come to know more or less what to do when, what happens when you leave things to chance, and exactly what the slugs round here like. The process of moving plants around until they thrive has helped me learn about their habitats, and about my garden. I feel slightly irresponsible, going off and leaving the garden now, and sad at the thought of missing next spring here Ė the gardenís often a bit soggy over the winter, though sitting with a mug of tea on the bench on a cold clear morning canít be beaten.

The garden Iím going to, with my partner Guy and cat Oscar, is a fairly large and established one in Devon Ė a Ďproperí garden, and a bit daunting with unfamiliar plants and weather to match, not to mention the resident wildlife. Weíre garden-sitting for six months and itíll be a different sort of gardening since weíve agreed to rebuild the patio and think about how to screen the gas tank. Itís going to be a steep learning curve againÖ

See also the Helping Hands workshops:
Pruning a fruit tree
Moving/dividing a perennial
Making compost
Revamping a patio
Installing a decking tile patio


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