With the Chelsea Flower Show over I turn my attention to my own cottage garden where there are always some unexpected surprises, some good, some not so.
The garden gate is closed and the day’s work done. But as the gardener rests, this cow parsley seems to have come in uninvited and established itself here. Soon other things will start coming under or over the garden gate. Not all will be welcome.
“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.”
Beatrix Potter would be amazed at the world-wide appeal of her delightful stories as children the world over are still drawn to them. It’s just the same with making a garden. You never know where it will go. Unexpected things happen. Creatures come under the gate, as this hedgehog (below), seeds waft over the fence and self-seeders wander about the garden. There will be some pleasant surprises, unless that rascal Peter Rabbit manages to squeeze under the gate!
The Chelsea Flower Show.
Recently, the pure ‘theatre’ of the Chelsea Flower Show was absorbing our interest – unreal but beautiful for a few days. Plants in pots prettily displayed, packed into burgeoning borders with well-behaved ‘weeds’, also in pots, obligingly fitted in between the paving slabs. Nothing more needs doing to wow the public and win that elusive gold medal. But it’s only a dream.
In Praise of (a measure) of Wildness
A real garden takes on a life of its own, where things romp and roam, invade and self seed. A mature garden can be a delight, mellowed and softened as nature has quietly started to assert itself into the plot. There will be birds, insects, butterflies and wildflowers, a relaxed atmosphere and a peaceful fullness. Gardens are Britain’s major wildlife conservation area. According to Jennifer Owen’s famous 30 year study of her suburban garden in Leicester she found nearly 3000 species in her plot.
But eventually something will have to be done
Some sort of order will need to be established and a harmonious truce between nature and the gardener will call for some sort of compromise. Some invaders will definitely not be welcome. But self-seeders can often bring some delightfully relaxed soft naturalness to the garden. Christopher Lloyd used to extol their virtues calling them ‘a gladdening hotch- potch of colours, uninvited guests and gatecrashers.’ There will be ‘see-through’ Verbena bonariensis, architectural teasel, ghostly Eryngium ‘Miss Willmot’s Ghost’. The latter look lovely in the evening light, as does the Evening Primrose. But the Alliums so much favoured at Chelsea can be a menace when they seed about too much.
Ironically, some of the guests I would like to welcome are reluctant to visit. Butterflies are top of the list, adding that extra layer of decoration. As long as the brassicas are well covered with netting I’m willing to welcome even the Cabbage Whites. But those molluscs……! Come on Mrs Tiggy-Winkle do your job !
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished” (Lao Tzu).
I want my garden to be a pleasure not a chore and some garden seats are an essential. Sitting and looking long and often, in different parts of the garden and at different times of day will give richer discoveries in each place. There will be morning freshness, an afternoon hum of insects among the surrounding bright colours, and in the evening deep wafts of scent in the lengthening shadows, with those white flowers glowing in the fading light. Pure garden joy!
In a discussion on country life between Doctor Johnson and Boswell, one of them complained that “the countryman is a slave of his acres”, to which the other replied. “Ah, but where will you find such willing servitude!”
Rosemary Verey of Barnsley House in Gloucestershire had this quotation on a plaque in her garden:
“As no man be very miserable that is master of a garden here,
so will no man ever be happy who is not sure of a garden hereafter.
Where the first Adam fell, the second (Jesus) rose.”
Like many gardeners I could not be without a garden. It is just part of me. Happily, I need never be. As a believer in Jesus I can be sure of a ‘garden hereafter’ where “the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22: 2).What a wonderful prospect.
Next Time – Join me as I revel in ‘These Glorious South Downs’.