The Gentleman Gardener, the Buddleia, and the Potting Shed

3 Lost Gardens of Heligan, South West, Cornwall, England

-The_potting_shed-_Calke_Abbey  Is there a better place of refuge than the garden shed?  Could it be the grown man’s answer to the tree houses and secret forts of  youth?

At the youngest of ages I would seek my Grandfather out at the bottom of his garden, past the impeccably manicured lawn, below the barely contained colour of the cutting garden,  beyond the green house that by late summer overflowed with a profusion of tomatoes, their late August scent chasing me down the pea pebble path… Down to the sun dappled shed, tucked in hard against the towering lilacs and chestnuts.




The green weathered door, always a bit crooked on it’s hinges, the sounds of Radio 4 or the cricket slipping from the higgledy piggledy structure, honeysuckle and wisteria vines seeming to hold the patchwork of wood and stone together.

Shovels inside garden shed


The venerable Grundig Sattelit



The inside a treasure trove of all that was my grandfather…The crimson crumpled packs of Dunhills, the earthy smells of moss and broken terracotta, competing for air with the hanging herbs on the racks, the drying bulbs of garlic, his old pair of Le Chameu’s….Balls of twine, stacks of yellowing sport sections, a crumbling pair of garden gloves,a  badminton shuttlecock, bent and twisted croquet wickets, linseed oil for the cricket bat, and an old writing desk crammed with seed packets.

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The shed was a boy’s drawer of knick knacks and wind up toys all grown up.  Un-shuttering a window would let in filtered light, dust motes riding beams to a broken tiled floor, catching the shining tines and blades of some seriously beautiful gardening tools, steel forged in Sheffield or Wigan, just as they should be..and it was here that the children would play until tea time, hiding out from all adults in the vicinity.  It was also here, in his later years, that my Grandfather would retreat.  Smoking his now forbidden Dunhills, reading the sports pages, and still listening to the cricket as night would fall and his Summers eventually came to an end.


I remember how the dinner party smell of Privet would mingle with with the far too leggy Buddleia just outside.  The purple shrub’s  summery and dusky smell attracting butterflies from seemingly every bit of countryside.  It’s this scent, the Buddleia, that takes me back to the shed at summers end every year.


Buddleia- the shrub


Buddleia- the shirt

I’ve planted my own butterfly bushes, the pea gravel edges the lawn just so.  I can even smell the privet that borders the drive if the wind is just right.  Although, I’m still holding out for just the right ramshackle garden shed with all the necessary things….Perhaps next Summer.


Summers end in the Home Counties


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