When I bought my house it had stood empty for two years and I was told the previous owners had died. It was late autumn and the overgrown garden resembled a wild green jungle. After moving in and starting to get sorted out I found one of those aerial photo's of the house from back in the late sixties and it was clear that someone had loved it and spent many hours in the garden.
In addition to the previous owner's mail once or twice a letter arrived addressed to someone with a male German name and I assumed it was a mistake and would return it to the post-office. After a while I was chatting to someone in the village and I found that the garden had been planted and kept by a former prisoner of war, Frederik, who had stayed here after the war, lived in the house and helped the owners for some forty years, caring for them and their property until their deaths, when he had to move out. He died shortly after but apparently he was living in the village after I moved in. I never met him. Never even knew of his existence at the time.
It must have been so difficult for him to leave his garden behind. To see it become overgrown and neglected.
For some reason I've always felt slightly responsible - perhaps if I hadn't bought the house he could have stayed? Logically I know that he'd moved out long before I moved to the area but I still feel a sense of sadness for him, tinged with guilt that I've benefited so much from his life-long labour of love.
Gradually as the garden was tamed again and the seasons passed his talent became obvious. The plants and shrubs are a joy and there is colour and beauty throughout the year. Frederik was a wonderful gardener. I wish I'd met him.
Each May the azaleas flower and each week sees a stunning new colour bloom in the border with more buds on the verge of bursting into flower.
Each May morning I get up and I open the curtains and am filled with pleasure to see the beauty he created. Followed throughout the year by the results of his thoughtful and considered planting. Camellia, peonies, lillies, iris and roses. Potentilla, lavatera, hydrangea and honeysuckle. The list is endless and well beyond my knowledge.
Along the walls a variety of unidentified colour scrambles, covering the tops and emerging from cracks in the sandstone to spill downwards.
Colour and beauty everywhere that lightens the heart.
I often say a quiet thank-you to Frederik, and hope that he doesn't mind too much that I inherited his garden.
Forty years ago,
when Frederik planted the azaleas,
did he wonder
who might live here later?
Gazing at the border,
In mid May. After his day.
Did he tend a garden
before the fighting
tore him from his home
and cast him here,
to nurture an asylum of flowers
on foreign soil?
What sort of soldier
captures the poppies'blood,
the misty mauve dawn,
and the steady summer sun,
adds the flush of twilight’s flame
and plants them together to sing
each spring along the fence-line?
I wonder how he felt,
in his eighties,
when he had to leave his azaleas
so I could blithely move in
and steal all those years
and quiet caring.