Foray into a world of foliage as I transform patch of wasteland

Joseph Bulmer

Until the summer before last I had never done any real work in the garden. Previous forays into the world of foliage had been frustratingly fruitless - the tip of even my littlest finger remained resolutely rosy; not a green tinge in sight.

My husband, tropical plant expert extraordinaire, is far more digit-ally verdant than I.

Our house is filled with extensive examples of aroid, from the humble philodendron to the queenly colocasia - truly, I have no concept of the class strata of the plant world; possibly I have deeply disrespected a philodendron with my last statement, for which faux pas I sincerely apologise.

We have a compact and bijou front garden bursting with a veritable jungle of exotics, my husband's pride and joy.

He cares for them as tenderly as one would an aging parent, monitoring their liquid intake solicitously, tucking them snugly in blankets lest the temperatures become inclement, and carrying them carefully inside at the first hint of frost - hopefully, parents would have been inside long before this.

It's a touching vision, I can assure you, but renders any efforts of mine in our personal great outdoors resolutely redundant.

However, two summers ago, I gazed out of our back window at the patch of scrubby wasteland behind our house, and the seed of an idea germinated and began to grow - apologies - the subject matter under discussion may influence my choice of language.

Our small, rickety - and I use that word kindly - garden shed stood next to the patch of ground in question, brimful with bikes and bric-a-brac  - again, kind usage of the term for 15 years' worth of accumulated junk.

I persuaded my husband that we could re-accommodate the bikes and therapeutically purge ourselves of the junk; happily, he agreed, and we set about dismantling the shed, liberating some appallingly humongous spiders in the process.

Contents cleared, I turned my attention to the wasteland.

For several backbreaking hours in the scorching sun, I grafted like I had never grafted before - or since, in the interest of transparency.

I wrestled with rambunctious rocks, tackled tenacious tendrils, and sweltered over stubborn stumps.

Family members appeared sporadically to toil at the soil and offer refreshment until, finally, it was finished, the ground root-free and smoothish.

Phase one was complete, and phase two - the provision of ground cover, modest seating and fencing - sprouted and bore fruit quickly.

It was too late that summer to enjoy many al fresco days, but by the following spring my mind was cultivating phase three - planting.

We filled two troughs with the seedling promise of fresh blooms in hues of yellows and blues. Watching their green shoots thrive was an unexpected thrill, and when the buds peeped through, I felt like a proud mamma with a latent brood of chicks.

We basked in the burgeoning of their cool beauty as the days lengthened into summer, and bid them fond farewell in the autumn.

My husband surprised me with packets of seeds at Christmas, and last weekend I set about restoring the plot, which had suffered seasonal neglect.

Weeding was the first order of the day, and I engaged with gusto, ejecting the interlopers with a firm hand.

When my youngest appeared, I invited him to join me, luring him with the promise of fat worms, having glimpsed two or three writhing rotundly.

Professing his fear of them he complied somewhat reluctantly, but soon espied a magnificent mollusc which he requested to hold, instantly charmed by its robust wriggles. His gardening enthusiasm waxed and waned, but I persevered, turning over the soil for the new seeds.

My husband brought out coffees and we stood for a while, surveying the land - you know the scene: foot planted on the upper blade edge of an upright spade, one hand on its handle, coffee in the other hand, the other hand on a hip - that's three hands, but who's counting?.

One final flurry of effort post-coffee and the job was done.

"That'll do for now, I dare say," I thought in rural tones, scratching my head vaguely with an earth-encrusted finger.

And I like to think, when I washed away the soil, I uncovered the merest trace of green...