Back in February I got an email from Leonie Norrington who asked to come visit my garden when she was in Finland in the beginning of May. I was really chuffed that an Australian gardener and accomplished writer had found my blog and wanted to see it in person, so obviously I warmly welcomed her! There are few joys as great as meeting fellow gardeners from across the world, and although my gardens are not at their best since it was so early in spring, I had such a lovely day with Leonie, her husband and nephew with family. It was a cool and sunny day, and we enjoyed a slow lunch after walking about the gardens, talking about everything from what makes a person persist in gardening and the different kinds of plants you can grow in different climates, to having wonderful rambling philosophising discussions about life and it's mysteries.
Leonie lives in Darwin, Australia, where the climate is harsh in its own way - there is crushing rain and floods that leach the soil, termites and other insects that eat everything in its way and a humidity of 99 % when it is not bone dry with a mercilessly scorching sun. When Leonie and her husband moved to their large farm there were no books on gardening in such a challenging environment, and all she had was the advice of her grandmothers Eve and Poppy, and so she set about to write her own gardening book on the subject of Tropical Food Gardens. Appart from her gardening book, Leonie is an accomplished author who has written more than 14 books for children and young people around the theme of narrating the lives of Indigenous and outback people through their own voices.
Presently Leonie has a Churchill Fellowship grant to research with people who grow food in their home gardens, and consequently she and her husband are travelling all over the world to interview and visit gardeners. Amongst the questions she is looking at are "Why do you persist in gardening and how do you keep up the inspiration to do so year after year?". In the beginning I think my passion was driven by the desire to create a natural, plant filled space in my gardens in England for my then very young children to play in and to see the differences in seasons, and later on when we moved to Finland it became focused on providing chemical free, healthy food for my family. I felt such joy at seeing my children as they went from toddlers to adolescents to grownups being in touch with the land and the bounty of harvest. There is something sublime in the understanding of how nature works and the happiness that comes from seeing a tiny little seed grow into a meal on the plate.
Later on the humility in the realisation that food is not necessarily a given, and that the insects play such a fundamental part of the food chain, has made me and my family ardent ecologists. It will never be a simple equation, and I think that one of the key things that keeps up my passion is the continuous learning it provides. Nowadays as there are fewer people at home in summer eating all the fresh produce, my kitchen garden is more concentrated on growing food that can be stored over winter. I also focus more on providing insect habitats and using environmentally friendly gardening methods to encourage the wildlife population by enlarging my decorative borders, and I incorporate more wildflowers and native plants into them. The border between the space of my garden and the surrounding farmland has all but disappeared, and I "garden" the forests and fields to make a safe haven for nature at the same time as I let nature move into the gardens more and more.