“Ugh,” said Susan, stamping her feet, “it’s pretty cold. What about putting on some of these coats?”

“They’re not ours,” said Peter doubtfully.

“I am sure nobody would mind,” said Susan; “it isn’t as if we wanted to take them out of the house; we shan’t take them even out of the wardrobe.”

The garden started off as a lovely but neglected plot behind a grand Victorian house. The vigorous brambles shot forth new canes every year; as the older ones died off, they remained in place, a matted, thorny carpet concealing decades of rotten apples and rubble.

I dug them out and surveyed the bare earth and broken bricks, wondering what to do. When I’d built and edged beds under the trees for daffodils, constructed a spiral of broken bricks for herbs and alpine plants, and fed the vegetable patch with compost from last year’s leaves and apples, I wondered, briefly, if perhaps I’d done too much. The garden didn’t belong to me, after all.

However, it occurred to me that I hadn’t brought anything in or taken anything out. The herb spiral was only a modest rearrangement of the pile of rubble it had once been. The soil was the same soil it had been before – tilled and weeded, of course, but forked through with compost from the nearby trees and hedges. The garden’s capacity for transformation had been contained within it all along.

The first year of work involved the laborious undoing of years of neglect, but as time goes by I hope to be the garden’s guide, not its master. I don’t want to intervene too much – I just want to be on hand to keep the balance, to dissolve disputes among the plants and wildlife, and to make sure every living thing has the space it needs to flourish. I can’t control everything – I expect the garden will tell me what it wants, as we get to know each other better.