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Jeremy Smith is a multi-award-winning journalist and columnist who has written about Oxford for more than 10 years. He lives in - and loves – Kidlington.

Man About County

Jeremy Smith


So here's the thing, I've never really had a garden (or at least one I could call my own), and I still don't. But, I do have a balcony...

It's a proper balcony, too; you know, large enough to entertain a friend or two with a couple of heavy bottles of Prosecco, but not so large you could fit a barbecue on it, or a putting range.

Equally, it's not so small it's only fit for drying tea towels and dish cloths. This, of course, means to my mind it's perfect. And better still, it has glass sides, which mean none of the sun - which I lounge in from 7.00am until 2.00pm - is ever blocked out.

Glorious then for sunbathing and, as I've begun to realise, glorious too for plants. Until now, I've never really taken gardening seriously, and it's easy to understand why. After all, how digging her fingers into mulch turned Charlie Dimmock into the horticultural equivalent of Nigella Lawson and Monty Don into the herbaceous equal of Harrison Ford I'll never understand. But sounding a trifle biblical, it has come to pass that in recent months I've found myself longing to get down and dirty with Primroses and daisies and Bay Trees.

Hell, a neighbour recently knocked on my door and asked if I would be interested in some of her cuttings and I welcomed her in like some high class Chelsea Flower show harlot.

So why the change in me? Well, for one, the weather's getting milder and more fragrant; two, I've turned 55 and three, since I live in a flat surrounded by women of a certain age, it's a guaranteed come-on.

So yes, shamelessly and without a speck of dignity I've realised that adorning my balcony with seasonal perennials can create the kind of buzz normally reserved for bees 'round a honey pot’.

And with that in mind, I have thrown myself wholeheartedly into creating a contained but exhilarating Garden of Eden, complete with tasteful and original ornaments and an elegant selection of picnicking glasses and plates from M&S. As of yet of course, it is only May, but I can feel the sap rising. The flowers are a mixture of blues and yellows (no, I have no idea what they're called) and my watering can boasts all the design trademarks of a Porsche or Bentley.

It goes without saying of course that carrying plants home in a wheelchair can get a little tricky (a sunflower, my favourite, is a nightmare to balance on the lap) but the end results speak for themselves.

My apartment is now not only home to the aromatic scents of the great outdoors (or at least a National Trust property) but also the heady scents of a recently retired hen party.

 In short, it's paradise...

 - Jeremy Smith