Alan Titchmarsh: The hardest thing in life is keeping a sense of perspective. In that respect, a garden has no equal

We all need a shelter in the garden, says our columnist Alan Titchmarsh.

Idea one hundred years of solitude might have caught the imagination of Gabriel García Márquez, but for most people these days, Twitter (never used it), TikTok (never looked at it), and Instagram (eventually gave up and started posting gardening snippets in 2021; @alantitchmarshmbe if you will be curious) the prospect of loneliness is far away. Whether it be through more traditional print and broadcast media or Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and… oh you name it, society at large now feels the need to be constantly connected to the actions – and opinions – of others. Except gardeners and writers, who are used to – and enjoy – working alone.

As I tap out these words in the attic of the barn across from our house, all I hear is the ticking of a clock (my wife has learned to tolerate this weakness). Not for me musical accompaniment or incessant radio chatter; I enjoy the birds singing through the open window, but the shed where I write, next to our wildlife pond, has become a space that I find increasingly comforting as the incessant babbling of the world around us subsides. drowned out the peace of mind and the few original thoughts that could have crossed my mind.

Loneliness, unlike loneliness, is a commodity of priceless value. It provides an opportunity to process – often subconsciously – our attitude towards life, our opinions about this or that, as well as a mode of action that can simply help us keep our heads above the water, which is a rush of information – mostly tragic – that we must absorb. daily. The garden is a sanctuary for many of us, and any building we erect in it, no matter how modest, will allow us to spend time surrounded by the natural world and stay in touch with ourselves.

“Visit the King’s Garden at Highgrove in Gloucestershire and you’ll find the perfect Sanctuary among the trees”

I am a sociable person, happy in the company, I can communicate with a variety of people, but I also appreciate the hours of tranquility spent in our garden, in the barn, in the country, and in winter by the blazing fire in our Arctic house surrounded by seedlings and young trees.

Sailors will tell you that “God does not subtract from a man’s time either hours spent fishing or days spent sailing.” In this case, He must surely add to this the time spent in the garden, for gardening is the extreme limit of conservation: the painstaking work of sowing and planting is the ultimate task that ensures that our own patch of the planet will be maintained in good condition. heart. But between our labors, we must ensure that there are periods of calm, reflection and unity with the earth. The garden sanctuary provides just that.

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Visit the King’s Garden at Highgrove in Gloucestershire and you’ll find the perfect retreat among the trees in the forest surrounding the house. It is made from local materials – walls made of clay blocks, topped with steep pitched tiled roofs. You will not be able to enter it. It remains the personal retreat of His Majesty; a chapel where he can be alone with his thoughts, surrounded by his beloved garden. While such an elaborate home may be out of reach for most of us, creating a simple garden retreat can provide the same escapism. Toward reality, not away from reality; for there is nothing more real in life than being present at this moment in your garden, surrounded by plants and animals, birds and insects. To assume that news bulletins are the only source of “reality” would be a grave and dangerous mistake. The most difficult thing in life is a sense of proportion and perspective. In this regard, the garden has no equal.

A garden hideout doesn’t have to be a particularly smart place: a humble shed will do. If he has a chair – an old Lloyd’s loom with a puffy cushion – nestled among shovels and forks, rakes and hoes, seed bags and trays, sacks of compost and fertilizer, it will become a place you can aim for with a mug – or glass – in hand. The greenhouse, no matter how small, will have its own cathedral atmosphere, where drops of water from freshly watered pots permeate the stillness of the air. Take a deep breath and enjoy the moment and the aroma of wet compost. Taking a break from earthly burdens for a portion of each day in your garden retreat will quickly demonstrate the enriching properties of solitude.

Alan Titchmarsh’s new book, The Gardener’s Almanac, is out.

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