“No Travel” Tales #10: The Garden

Gleaming skyscrapers and pastel-clad interiors have been vacated in lockdown, usurped by the city’s leafy areas – the closest many of us will come to suburbia. Gardens have become a sanctuary from the virus, spaces where we can reunite with loved ones and rekindle some sense of normality.

Street-facing gardens are now al-fresco dining spots, perfect for people-watching, while others have built a floral fort around their bijou plots to ensure privacy. Those without the luxury of a private green space adopt a patch in the nearby parks and squares, personalising it with a picnic rug, portable speakers and a bag full of tinnies.

Since these are our new rendez-vous spots, we have tried to make them as presentable as possible. The recent reopening of garden centres sent hearts racing as people flocked to their nearest B&Q for BBQ equipment, plant pots and a rare bit of socially-distanced flirting with cashiers.

Some family members have embraced their green-fingered abilities, though others prefer to be caught purple-handed as they knick lavender from the shrubs out front. The real gardeners started long ago. While we were busy fighting over tinned goods, they were planting the seeds of their future, cultivating crops of chillis, carrots and cherry tomatoes so that they’d have supplies when the stockpiling time came.

FOMO may have temporarily disappeared, but there’s a new form of jealousy in town. Garden envy has become a painful reality, as certain properties flaunt their Chelsea Flower Show potential, with flowers arranged meticulously on their manicured front porch. Those with more humble traits hide their botanical beauty, keeping a secret garden to themselves. 

Neglected gardens have become more noticeable as a result, with overgrown plants encroaching upon the already one-person wide pavements, and resilient weeds reclaiming urban architecture. Spiders paint delicate webs across gates and fences, while pests ruin any chance of organic produce. The glorious weather initially did wonders but now leaves behind straw-like patches. Meanwhile, dilapidated decks see planks of rotted wood levitate above pinned-down ones, with a footing as uneasy as the current crisis – tweezers may finally come in handy as your bare feet encounter splinters along the way. 

Dog-owners can rely on canine contributions to gardening, as they trim blades of grass with their teeth before priding themselves on collecting the garden’s stick population. For all their work, however, there are certain drawbacks. Tended-to plants either disappear or exhibit suspicious bite marks – guess we should be happy they’ve become vegetarian.

As lockdown begins to ease, perhaps all this hard work will go to waste as we abandon our gardens for the wider world. Signs are beginning to show already as they lose their peaceful silence. The mechanical whirring of the lawnmower varies in volume as it zig-zags across the land, accompanied by the sweet aroma of freshly cut grass and the monotone beeping of a nearby car alarm. Neighbours camped out at their second homes have chosen now for construction work, the drilling and hammering appearing at intervals throughout the day, while others tap out piano scales, having picked up a new hobby during lockdown. 

As barbecue fumes, helium balloons and the clattering of crockery fill the air, however, I’m convinced that we’re here to stay – even if our sunbathing is interrupted by a splatter of bird poo. 

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