Giant cabbage leaves, succulent and cool against the warm soil, hiding the occasional snail that my Grandad would pick up and throw over the fence into next door’s garden.
Summer: running through sprinklers, armed with a tea-towel for protection, laughing as the water struck my legs, and then terrified of the bees buzzing menacingly around the bean poles.
Wanting to shelter from the blazing sun in the shade of the hedge, but wary of spiders, bugs and creepy crawlies that seemed to reside under every single leaf.
The vast compost heap that ran the width of the garden, against the back fence that met the field beyond. It was made of stinging nettles, grass cuttings and vegetable peelings, with swarms of flies providing the constant soundtrack.
His greenhouse had open bags of compost and soil stacked on the floor under the workbenches. Endless numbers of plants growing in little pots, with white plastic labels sticking out.
Tomato plants climbing up to the roof, as if reaching for an escape hatch. Cucumber plants weighed down by their fruit. Seedlings of plants I could not identify.
The smell of soil and moisture and humidity; the scent of life mixed with secret cigarettes and dirt.
Helping my mother and grandmother pick blackberries, being careful not to get caught on the thorns, and trying not to squash the fruit. My fingers inevitably turned purple with the juice.
I haven’t mentioned the cactus on every windowsill in the house; little hairy plants with sharp needles and dusty saucers. Why did they always look so thirsty and mean, and why were they growing here and not in the desert where they belonged, with cowboys and snakes and sand?
One of my earliest memories is of walking into the lounge and looking up at vast green plants in vases all over the room. It seemed like a jungle, dark and shadowy, only with red tiles beneath my feet rather than vines and strange snakes. Dusty rays of sunshine beaming though the windows, casting shadows from giant leaves. I couldn’t have been much more than two.
The knotted and withered tree in the front garden, that looked like something from a fairytale, bending awkwardly, as if trying to reach inside the house. The bird table next to it, with its never ending supply of breadcrumbs and birdseeds, ready for Hansel and Gretel if they ever needed them.
Today, someone else lives there. The tree is gone. The greenhouses are gone. The vegetable patches are gone. All traces of his garden have been erased.
My own garden is a mess. My sad vegetable patch is covered with weeds, but I have planted some potatoes, so it is not completely neglected. I imagine all the plants he would have prepared for me, how he would have cultivated the soil properly, and turned it into a lush, bountiful vegetable garden.
I have not inherited his green fingers.