I live on the ground floor of a Victorian conversion. I bought it fourteen years ago this month, not only because of its good size and lovely high ceilings, but it came with the delight of a self-contained back garden just the right size for me to maintain. So many conversions have split back gardens with little or no privacy which it certainly not, in my opinion, ideal. The downside to owning the back garden is that the front garden belongs to the flat upstairs and my lounge looks out on to it.
When I moved in it was just a patch covered in black plastic, topped with bark clippings. The whole area was a public toilet to every cat in the neighbourhood. The only saving grace was the colourful Skimmia and the Lilac tree in the corner. A year later the upstairs people put their flat up for sale and were astute enough to grass the front and make a path around the edge to my back gate.
The subsequent owners were not gardeners or at all interested in the garden and kindly allowed me to tend to its care. After tidying up the Skimmia I discovered a hydrangea and, much to my delight, I also unearthed snowdrops.
Several years ago, when the flat was on the market again I overheard, to my horror, the estate agent saying to a prospective buyer, “as you can see a lot of people have turned their front gardens into parking areas”. No way was I going to have someone else’s car, or God forbid, a Transit van parked up against my lounge window. Fortunately, working for a solicitor, I shot downstairs to the conveyancing department and investigated buying the freehold and was lucky enough that the freeholder was happy to sell. At least that guaranteed no one would ever be able to turn the front garden into a parking lot, not while I was the freeholder!
The flat was bought as a Buy to Let, (which has its own issues) and there has been a regular turnover of tenants in the last 9 years. Fortunately none of them have been interested in gardening and I have been able to continue as the ‘resident gardener’. I did try to buy the front garden but the owner was advised against it by his solicitor. That was disappointing and a little annoying but understandable as it would affect his lease.
Yes, that’s right, you do see a For Let sign. The present tenant, after 2 years, is moving out. As usual the flat is advertised as a rental with a front garden and I have started the minor panic I experience every time I see this horrid board, hoping that the new tenants are not gardeners either. Selfish, I know! It means when I introduce myself I have to find a pleasant way of asking if they like gardening, if not would it be ok for me to continue to look after the garden. So far the tenants have been quite happy to relinquish the care. Although there was one lady who dabbled for a few weeks and pulled up all the Forget me Nots thinking they were weeds. I have to be honest I didn’t handle it too well and although I know she had the right to do whatever she wanted I did point out that they were not weeds, but she didn’t do any more ‘gardening’ after that!
Fully aware it is not my property, I don’t spend very much money, if any, on the front garden, taking cuttings and moving bits and pieces from the back garden. There are however lots of bulbs I have put in over the years. It is always so heartwarming to walk through the front gate and see these in the spring.
This morning I was out there having a general tidy up before the new tenants move in, and contemplating if I was going to move the beautiful Day Lilies that I planted a few years ago, (one of the few plants it did buy for the front). The jury is still out on that one, mainly because I’m not sure this is the right time of the year to move plants.
I hope the new tenants don’t pick the tulips when they come through or cut down the pretty white rose by the front door. It can only go two ways, either they don’t like gardening and let me get on with it, or they do like to garden, care for it and I have something pretty to look at without the work.
That’s me trying to be positive, and I hope the little Robin who followed me around this morning thinks the same thing.