Taking leave, saying hello
A detail of Mirabel and Michael's garden as it appears in her book A Gentle Plea for Chaos
A few days ago, a dear friend gave me Mirabel Osler's book, A Gentle Plea for Chaos in the garden. When snow is falling or winter rain is pouring down, as it has been the last few days, I like to dream of summer gardens, and especially English gardens. (We've written about them here). But when I reached the last line of Mirabel Osler's idyllic account of creating a Shropshire garden with her husband Michael, my dream abruptly ended.
Michael and Mirabel worked hard creating the garden - she was often on her knees weeding, he was often scything and they both planted hundreds of trees and bulbs. They liked to lie about the garden, too, under "voluptuous domes of roses" or above their stream in a tree house. (Gardeners often don't take the time to enjoy their garden. They really did.)
But then came that last, devastating line - On 26 April 1989, since this book was written, Michael died.
Each of us knows how heart-breaking it is when we lose a person we love. I wondered what had happened to Mirabel and the garden when she suddenly lost Michael.
Hard as it must have been, Mirabel knew what she had to do -
. . .she had absolutely no qualms about creating a brand new, easy-to-manage garden for herself. "Leave while you still feel good about it, before the garden you loved together becomes a burden," she counsels. "And never look back. Immortality and gardens don't work." Sixteen years on, her narrow town garden in Ludlow is every bit as fêted as the one she left behind.
With her book, you can wander in her old garden, and admire the spirit that sent her out toward a new horizon.