When we moved into our house 13 years ago, the garden was so neglected that I thought I’d have to dig up the lawn just to have a few flowers. Then I started cutting back the hedge and discovered to my surprise that I already had large flowerbeds. They were just completely hidden by a ridiculously overgrown hedge and swathes of ivy, brambles and ground elder.
Kirsty Hall: Garden after the hedge butchery but still full of brambles & ivy, May 2003
If I wanted to reclaim my flowerbeds, I had to get serious.
One of the first things I did in my garden was to completely remove three enormous leylandii trees that were shading the entire space. It was obvious that nothing very interesting would grow in such deep shade. Most flowers and vegetables need light.
Your art or business is the same. You’ve got to make space in your life for Your Wonderful Thing or nothing will grow.
If your life is full of crap, there will be no room for Your Wonderful Thing. It will be strangled to death by other people’s needs and shaded out by all those sneers and subtle little put-downs.
You’ve got to clear the ground. Get rid of that clinging, stifling ivy and those spreading brambles.
Oh, you know what I’m talking about. That friend who's oh-so-entertaining but only talks about their stuff and is mysteriously absent when you need help. That family member who pours scorn on Your Wonderful Thing and tells you to Get A Real Job. That clinging person who just won’t let go and insinuates herself into every space in your life.
Sometimes those people can be contained. There is still ivy in my garden – it’s good for wildlife & I am happy to have it on walls, trees and in the hedges - but when it starts to rampage through the flowerbeds, I know I have to pull it up or it will smother everything else.
Some people need firm boundaries or they’ll choke out Your Wonderful Thing. They won’t even mean to but they will, so you need to protect your flowerbeds. Arrange to have a pressing appointment so you can cut short that person who goes on too long. Graciously go into a conversation with that self-absorbed friend accepting that you’ll be in listening mode for an hour. Phone a different friend when you need help.
Kirsty Hall: New shrubbery and path, May 2009
Unfortunately there are some people and situations that you simply cannot afford in your life. Not if you’re committed to Your Wonderful Thing.
After three years of pulling up ground elder, I finally realised that all I was doing was spreading the damn stuff around. It is virulent as all hell and will spread from the tiniest bit of root that’s left in the ground. And it makes a lot of roots. I’m not quite sure what the Romans were thinking when they introduced it to Britain. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Eventually I guiltily resorted to weed killer and I’m now ground elder free. Similarly I have at least one person that I cannot let back into my life even the tiniest amount because they absolutely will not accept boundaries.
I’ve dropped friends who were such drama queens that they sucked the life out of me. Sometimes I’ve been the person who’s been dropped. It is Not Fun to be on either side of that situation but sometimes it’s needful.
If boundaries won’t work & they’re killing Your Wonderful Thing, well, you have a hard choice to make.
Do you want flowers or not?