Friday, 14 August 2015

Did Thomas Hardy grow lemon balm in his cottage garden?

I have no idea, but I like to imagine so.

When I visited Thomas Hardy's cottage in Dorset, I was entranced by the garden as much as the cottage with its simple writing desk where he wrote Under the Greenwood Tree and Far from the Madding Crowd.

As I left, dreaming of Gabriel and Bathsheba. I came across some plants for sale in the lane leading away from the cottage and bought a pot of lemon balm.    The idea of buying lemon balm makes me smile now.  It is such a generous plant, seeding itself with abandon, it was bound to find my garden anyway.
Lemon balm (left corner) rampages in my garden
That tiny plant has spread into a citrus-scented army, but I like to think it has a literary lineage.
If my lemon balm descends from the lane leading to Hardy's cottage, well, perhaps, just perhaps, its roots may go way back to Hardy's cottage garden itself!

Wherever I go I am drawn to a garden first.  I wander dreamily amongst the plants, humming to myself, happy and in a world of my own. As I have travelled this year, I have realised that the place I yearn for most is usually my very own garden.  That's the curious thing about travelling; in 'going away' you often come back to yourself.
Cinderella works in the Kitchen Garden at Packwood House.  I know how she feels!
I've been focussed on other things these past few years.  Now, inspired by the beautiful new kitchen garden at Packwood House, I have new hopes, plans and dreams for my garden.  Trouble is the lemon balm has invaded every border behind this reluctantly negligent gardener's back!

In many ways I love it.  Its fragrance is divine and the tea I make from the leaves is fresh and uplifting.  But we have to come to some arrangement, this 'possibly Thomas Hardy's' lemon balm and I.  There will always be a place for it because the birds feast on the seed heads in winter, and bees love to make their harvest from the tiny white flowers in summer.  It's simply going to have a lot less territory!

This means spending long hours cutting back and digging out roots.  I think it will take several seasons, - and I'm being hopeful here -, to rein it in.  I'm an organic gardener - no spraying it!

My consolations are the newly styled garden I'm dreaming of and 'The Return of the Native'.  All this talk of Hardy has reminded me how much I love this book.  It's my reward with a cup of Assam and a slice of cake for all the hard work.  


  1. When were you at Hardy's Cottage? It's 10 mins from my front door....!

    Sarah x

  2. Long before you moved there Sarah! Otherwise I could not have resisted the temptation to drop in for a chat about Goldsmiths' days and a slice of one of those fabulous cakes you make. You might know the people who sold me the Lemon Balm though! :-)