While it seems everyone is losing the run of themselves at Woodie’s, the rest of us are counting down the days until the 5km travel restriction is lifted so we too can join the insufferable car park queues
In Howth during lockdown, we put the insular into peninsula, only being able to go as far as Sutton Cross. There are plenty of green (and blue) spaces here, for which I’m eternally grateful, the infinite variety of sand, sea, harbour, cliffs, trees, hills, and the rambling Howth Castle estate, serving as nature’s own Xanax. The ornithological soap opera raging in the woodland behind our flat, meanwhile, is a daily dose of joy.
All the same, being bereft of a garden I stand on our barren, grubby balcony pining not for Romeo, but for rosemary, parsley, sage and thyme, geranium, lavender, flowering tobacco, jasmine, dianthus and anything else that’s green, has leaves or flowers or smells nice or is colourful or can be chopped into a dish – anything and everything I can’t seem to get my hands on, despite garden centres having reopened.
Because the shelves are bare, online. I steel myself from grabbing potted lavender from the corner shop (roll up, roll up, three for €25!) because of not having any vessels to put them in, since every bridge planter I want by domestic delivery is either sold out or prohibitively expensive, shipping from the UK. While I’ve better things to do than join traffic queues outside the likes of Woodie’s – you know, like Google Evan Peters or visit the bottle bank for the umpteenth time – I am nonetheless impatient for my own sliver of Eden when the whole country seems to be channelling their inner Dimmock.
Throw in my apparent expertise on hedgehog corridors, ponds, soil and pollinators, when I’ve never even owned a tuft of turf, and I’m quite the couch Titchmarsh
Similar to my mistimed bricks and mortar obsession, my frustrated green-fingers have come as quite the surprise. I’ve only ever kept indoor dragon plants and cacti, which any old idiot can keep alive, so yearning to go wild in the aisles at Tully Nurseries, scooping up night-scented flora and fresh kitchen herbs, is perhaps ambitious. Throw in my apparent expertise on hedgehog corridors, ponds, soil and pollinators, when I’ve never even owned a tuft of turf, and I’m quite the couch Titchmarsh.
I used to be more proactive and better informed, though. I’ve fond childhood memories of “helping” dad at the allotment – though really transfixed by the snails in the water trough – and walking around the garden with grandpa, him telling me about lupins and foxgloves. Trying to herd our escaped rabbits back into their hutch; picking luscious, ripe plums from our tree and selling them from a stall in front of the house; plucking fresh mint at the bottom of the garden, for the allotment-fresh spuds, and making bark rubbings from the centuries-old oak tree that was so much taller than our house and so wide that, as an adult, I still wouldn’t have the wingspan to hug it.
Less fond is the memory of dad giving me a right bollocking after I plucked every single petal from every single marigold in what I thought was an enterprising effort to make perfume. But I digress.
Fireworks of flora
the household garden is still my dad’s pride and joy, and probably the reason why I’m hankering for my own plot to nurture and nourish
The lockdown, coupled with the fine weather, has me aching to revisit the childhood me; she of the grass-stained knees, soil under her fingernails and ladybirds in a jar. Worms, snails, butterflies, moths. None were off limits in terms of trapping, collecting and releasing, in and amongst the fireworks of springtime flora.
While my parents have lived in different addresses since, the household garden is still my dad’s pride and joy, and probably the reason why I’m hankering for my own plot to nurture and nourish: to feel a little bit closer to him and his carefully tended flower beds, bird tables and greenhouse goodies.
The deep-red Dublin Bay rose, which he planted as an homage, the towering lilies, the abundance of clematis, rhododendron, Busy Lizzies, poppies, even a wild rose that his father took from a hedgerow more than 70 years ago and has since passed through the generations as cuttings. We may be separated by the Irish Sea, but our lockdown-distance relationship will surely bloom from a renewed, mutual appreciation of chlorophyll, compost and family history.
Some days I glower at our dirty balcony walls that weren’t professionally cleaned last summer (as per landlady’s instructions to estate agent), and begrudge the slippery moss that often sends me doing the half-splits on to the decking. Weirdly, I don’t mind the graveyard of crab claws and shells, tossed aside by satiated seagulls – they add a certain frisson.
Once the balcony is bathed in sunshine, though, it’s wide smiles and all hands on deck: untethering the overpriced Groupon sun loungers from the tarpaulin inevitably smeared with seagull dung, and where I prop myself up to work – Wi-Fi connection permitting – to read, to write, to daydream, to make mental notes of assorted flora that I hope my boyfriend’s horticulturalist dad will help me buy within the allocated 20km.
I momentarily forget the grime and look forward to prettifying our lookout, which has never been so vital as during the lockdown. You wait. By the time this pandemic is over, we’ll have the finest, leafiest, most fragrant, bird-enticing, bumblebee-audible balcony in Dublin 13.
You wait. That ubiquitous phrase.
Read more: Nectar café: These are the best bee-friendly flowers to plant right now
Read more: Shazam for birdsong, nest-cams and virtual Chelsea Flower show; we've Mother Nature covered
Read more: The best gardening Instagram accounts to follow: from practical tips to unadulterated escapism