I’ve been a hobby gardener for over 30 years now, goodness putting that Statement on here suddenly makes me feel old and I have come to realise that working in your own garden is a bit like wearing your favourite jumper or sleeping in your own bed. What am I going on about? Have I finally lost the plot? Well not the gardening plot at least. I have a feeling that sanity is relative. What I mean is this, when you have created a garden, you know all its quirks, all of its bumps, you know where the perennials are planted when they can’t be seen in the depths of winter. Your garden has all the familiarity of an old friend, you knows its ways. I do garden for other people but it’s not the same, it’s like sleeping in a strange bed and you long for the familiarity of your own garden.
Gardening for other people demands restraint
I’m 50 years old and yes I know 40 is the new 30 and all that but would somebody please tell my bones and muscles. The thing with working in your own garden is that you have freedom that comes with deciding what you plant and how long you work each day, when you’ve had enough you can down tools and get yourself a nice cup of tea. Gardeners are artists, we work with colours and textures to create our masterpieces and we pour as much of ourselves into our works of art as any painter does.
We all have our own perception of what makes a glorious garden and there is no right or wrong, it’s about personal taste and the limitations of time and lifestyle. When I’m driving through my local town and I see new houses with a postage stamp size of a garden I feel sad, I grieve for the inhabitants of the house who will be deprived of the beauty that a garden provides.
Clients often ask me how I know how to create a beautiful garden, how do I know what plants works well together. I guess it is partly intuitive and partly comes from years of experience, I know that the current gardening me is very different to the gardening me at age 20. I suspect my tastes have changed and the gardener in me has evolved.
The problem with designing gardens and advising clients is that you have to restrain your natural impulse to create what you love and instead design what the client will like, sometimes you have to count to 10 and bite your tongue when inside your soul is crying.
I will admit to failing slightly in this , I tend to give clients options including what I feel would work wonderfully for their garden and what I think they truly want. In this way I am not making assumptions about what they really want, sometimes, let’s be honest the clients don’t always know what they want. I tend to thumb through my gardening books, marking relevant pictures with post-it notes, I find that pictures help clients visualise what is possible.
The restorative powers of working in your own garden
I don’t mind working in other people’s gardens, I’m not that fussy. I really don’t mind weeding, pruning, edging the lawn and I don’t even mind the endless task of raking up leaves in the autumn. I compartmentalise things, it’s treated as a series of tasks to be completed, a task list in my mind that gets ticked off as the day progresses. However, it is very different to working in my garden. Working in my garden is like writing a love letter to my soul. It’s a real symbiotic experience. I feed the garden and the garden feeds my soul. I think feeding your soul is so important. I was once asked at a “meet and greet” session on a leadership course “what makes you happy?”, most of the people replied money, holidays, getting drunk and chocolate. When my turn came around I answered ” bees and butterflies in my garden”, the other people looked at me like I’d been sniffing fairy dust and they asked me why and I replied “no matter how crappy my day has been, no matter what horrendous news stories bombard me about our self-destructive nature, when I go home and I work in my garden and I see bees, bumblebees and butterflies in my garden I somehow feel that everything is alright with the world.” When I immerse myself in the garden, when is see how wonderful the flowers are and what a wonder nature is, I realise how insignificant we humans are. It is a real shame that we are stuffing up the environment, I wish we could learn to be happy with what we have, to cherish the wonder of nature and especially our garden spaces. When I listen to the news and I hear all the nonsense, the fake news, brexit, the European Union, Russia, China and Korea I want to retreat into my safe garden. All of these people who fill the media with their nonsense and bile have, in my belief, lost touch with th wonderful planet, with their souls and with me. I’d really like to take these people out of the mainstream for a month, take their phones away with no access to the Internet just access to gardening books and get them all working together, working on a garden together. No talking about politics, no blame culture, no spinning of facts, just working together to create something of value. Wouldn’t that be just great and no using chemicals for impressive quick fixes, you see it is the process that is important. I know it will never happen but what if it did?