Friday, 16 July 2010

A balance.

Sometimes the garden is all about work and trying to find the balance (especially when sudden problems arise) so it's always helpful when you get chance to see a lesson in unwinding by a true master.

Friday, 9 July 2010

A loss in the garden and a lesson in the perils of relatives.

For all my love of gardening I take a certain pleasure in the relaxed pottering approach as opposed to the drastic, sudden change of a landscaping job or the mildly high maintenance gardens with constantly changing planting themes and the ever present job of regular container replanting. It is for this reason I spend time and effort going out of my way to produce a more self balancing style of garden, one where certain plants are allowed to go to seed and reappear the following year in random spaces, where the lawn will err on the side of shaggy rather than cropped and the leaves are allowed to form a mulch (as long as they're not covering other plants).

In one garden I'd spent the last four to five years allowing bedding plants and annuals to self seed and overwinter when normally they'd have been ripped out and confined to the compost heaps. This had resulted in one bed being a mixed carpet or pansies, erysimums, stocks, alysums, snapdragons and wallflowers in amongst golden Mock Orange and Callicarpa. Over time I'd be careful to allow the plants to not only seed freely in the bed but also when their time was done to only cut them back and leave the roots and about an inch of stem in the ground, it was amazing the amount that would regrow the following year. Earlier this year the bed had been a joy to behold as flowers filled the space while bees went about their business and beetles and various other creatures scrambled away in the shade of the leaves. The ground beneath was moist and light, easy(ish) to weed and happily supporting all the plants in it.
Image my horror then when upon arrival one day I discovered not a haven of naturalised planting but a barren, dry, empty bed!! Apparently my clients sister had come to visit, looked at the border and as most of the flowers had died decided to pull the lot out. Four years down the drain just because someone decided to be "helpful", it's times like that where you really need to remember who's garden it really is and why you do the job you do. Now I've nothing against people relaxing in their own garden and doing some odd work here and there but it can very disheartening to the gardener who has spent time preparing it a certain way only for it to be undone in moments by an over zealous relative; and this is the crucial point, it's nearly always a relative of the owner.
A visitor who doesn't know what's been done out there or any of the plans discussed but has a strong view of their own on how a garden should appear, sadly it seems all to often that a helping hand lent is from an body that doesn't normally garden. I've had long grass scalped to the ground regardless of the bulbs dying back amongst it, logs tidied away that had been left for the wildlife and bamboo canes bundled up after I'd spent ages marking a new layout but before I'd had chance to note the final positions, all done by visiting relatives.

Still we live and we learn and accept that this is just another sudden change that gardening will occasionally throw at you and in the bigger state of things it isn't much different to finding a limb off a tree down or the ravages of squirrels to a carefully planted bulb display. It's what keeps the days exciting and the gardener on their toes, it's good to have a challenge: as long as they don't happen too often.
Instead of seeing the baked earth as a loss I've had to instead see it more as a new canvas on which to start again after having had chance to really prepare the soil, fresh homemade compost down and a wider variety of seeds distributed.

I look forward to the next four years of development in the garden knowing it will continue to throw random challenges at me and at least it hasn't disappeared into a ten foot hole like one of my brothers gardens has, but that's another story.