I love the Chelsea Flower Show. Glorious, decadent, sometimes ridiculous, but always sumptuous. A televisual feast that I dine out on each May. A week long explosion of colour in my living room (I’ve yet to actually go there). Designers clamouring for hard won awards from the judges. A label to be proudly displayed for all to see, opening doors to further fame and success.
Inspired by this sublime, horticultural festival I annually turn my attention to my own patch of ground or ‘garden’ as it’s rather hopefully known. I imagine how I will transform it into my own haven of tranquility; one with an edgy, urban, free flowing design, softened by wispy aromatic planting and ethereal water features. Award winning. Gold Standard or at least a Silver Gilt.
But not today.
Today the paddling pool is out. A large blue inflatable bath sits slap bang in the middle of the lawn. Well, perhaps lawn is a little optimistic. But there’s definitely grass, of varying lengths. Quite a few patches of the stuff in fact.
There is a border…of sorts. Hardly wispy though. More weighty. Overgrown even. A tree or two. A couple of swings, a small trampoline and a shed.
Oh. And a windmill.
A bright, colourful and very large plastic windmill.
You see, the garden of my dreams is not the garden of my reality. The garden I envisaged is not a bit like the one I actually have. A different reality. Not how I imagined. A bit rough around the edges in places. Needs maintenance.
The garden I have is magical.
Yesterday, she made the windmill spin. My daughter has never done that before. The windmill I purchased on a whim from a cheap and cheerful retail outlet just the other day.
She’ll enjoy looking at that.
But she did more than look at it. She made it spin. She actually made the windmill turn. Over and over again. An action that most children would learn to do in a heartbeat has taken her years to accomplish. It does not matter. She did it. And she loved it.
Our garden is a safe place for a child with Down’s syndrome. A place for her to be. To feel, to smell, to touch, to taste, to explore. Our garden is her space. A safe space. A nurturing space. A joyful space.
It’s also a place where her older sister can be herself. It’s where she can, if she chooses, practice riding a bike – away from the quizzical looks of others. She has yet to be able to ride a bike properly. Dyspraxia – a life-long developmental condition – has recently been added to the list of our own awards. Another formal label now appears at the top of the endless stream of hospital letters that we receive; I’m not complaining – labels can help open doors to a different kind of success. Dyspraxia makes the things that most children take for granted so much harder for her. Climbing, swimming, running, jumping, riding a bike or a scooter – they are all typically huge challenges for a person with Dyspraxia. It also brings with it a host of daily sensory challenges and stresses.
Our garden is her safe place too.
We are soon to have some long overdue landscaping done. Some order is most definitely needed, I have to admit. A patio would be nice.
Chelsea is glorious. Perfection. But in many ways it’s an illusion. Temporary. Taken down once the cameras have been switched off. For most people, their gardens are not like that. And, as much as I love Chelsea, I am sad at how it leaves me feeling when it’s over. As though my garden isn’t good enough. Defective. Less than.
Our garden is not a Chelsea garden. Yet, despite perceived flaws in its design it brings great beauty and depth to our lives. Sometimes chaotic, sometimes peaceful. It is an ever changing landscape that challenges me and captivates me at the same time. It is a tough but beautiful place to be. I want no other garden.
I think Chelsea is perhaps selling fake flowers. Artificial.
Someone told me once that I could aim for perfection with my unborn child. By not having her. By ending her life before she was born and trying again for a better one. A gold standard, award winning one. I like gold, I really do.
But I prefer windmills.