Gardening is deeply personal. One person can see weeds, the wrong plant in the wrong place or wildflower chaos while another can view the same garden and see beautiful jewels and treasures within herbaceous borders. Embracing this difference is what makes truly unique and spectacular gardens. By growing what you love in harmony with your own soil and climate you create your own oasis, be it urban or rural. It is not easy but it is also not as difficult as you may think.
Why I Garden
I don’t think this is something that I have ever answered in any of my growing blog posts to date. Gardening for me is something I have always loved since I was a child. There were times that being in the garden pruning, tending bedding plants or weeding was the only time I could spend with my dad on busy weeks and with my aunt it was the only thing we had in common other than craft.
I love watching wildlife in the garden move from tree to tree. Butterflies, bees, robins, songbirds and finches all provide year-round interest and excitement for the toddlers and I love knowing that wildlife around here can be enhanced by what we grow. It does get a little grating at times when the pigeons get to my veg before I do but usually we find a way to coexist.
I also think it is our responsibility by buying the cottage and it’s garden to maintain what we can from wildlife to planting and having not grown up in this area and being somewhat naive gardeners, this was a challenge in itself.
When I moved to our cottage I felt tremendously overwhelmed. I had inherited a mature overgrown neglected garden alive with wildlife. While the garden was unsuited to my personal taste, I sat back and watched and journaled over 3 years as the garden moved through the seasons. I say that as if I have an understanding what my personal taste is but that is something that is developing with time and knowledge.
I love being outdoors with the sunshine on my face but any garden I have ever tended has been with the experience of another who’s trained eye knew their own planting. Here I was, the owner of a coastal garden with a desire to maintain wildlife and grow her own food but lacking the confidence and some skills to do it. Now, any gardener will tell you that to maintain wildlife in a garden you simply do as little as possible. Picture me looking around my garden shaking my head like a loon, this was not an option for us. The trees are in need of pruning and topping and the honeysuckle, oh, the honeysuckle hadn’t seen a pair of secateurs in years! The HORROR!
Holding On and Letting Go
The problem with this train of thought is that the idea of starting over never occurred to me. While waiting and watching, we did the bare minimum with the garden. We removed diseased leaves, pruned the roses and removed the honeysuckle. We started a compost and removed any dead stumps. This may sound like our garden is massive, it isn’t, our entire property is about 1200 square feet but this garden was landscaped for depth, privacy and height.
The other problem with a mature garden is that gardens have a lifespan. Plants can outgrow their allotted space and mature at different rates meaning that a garden that looked fantastic about 5 – 7 years ago can look well past its best now. No matter how much tending and time you give it, they will never regain their glory.
Thanks to the wonderful Hugh Cassidy, I realised that I was holding on to a garden that I didn’t love. I wasn’t growing for a future and there was no real joy in what I had other than watching the birds and getting my hands dirty. What I was doing wasn’t even a good use of time, although I do recommend if you have a new garden to sit and watch for a year before deciding to do anything that’s permanent.
I realised that I needed someone else’s permission to overhaul my own garden. Having validation from a horticulturist that it was time to rip up and say goodbye meant that I could give myself permission to destroy what remained. That I could fall in love with my garden again. Hugh told me to dream and at the time I laughed (sorry Hugh) but it is honestly the best thing that I could have done. It’s one thing to say you are going to rip out everything and start again and quite another to do it.
From spending time on nursery sites, Pinterest, Houzz (that’s for you, Karen) and general garden shopping, I came to realise what myself and my husband wanted in a garden and that in fact, my husband did actually care about what was planted. By letting go of this idea that I had to maintain or rescue our landscaped garden, my attitude to the garden went from being a slave to its growth habit to a master of its destiny.
Gardening for the Future
I now have a dream plant list, I have embraced the plants I love which thankfully all work in a cottage garden. My love affair with mauve and delicate pinks will fit right in with both the age of the cottage and the hard landscaping already in place. This garden, like any other, will be in a constant state of flux but all I really need to do is embrace the seasons within an evergreen structure for us to be happy in our garden. Each season having its own shining jewel.
Along with all of this, my efforts and time spent in the garden are all productive. At the moment it is leaning to more of a destructive phase but we are gardening for future seasons, playing the long game and planning with purpose. Each time we step outside we are now actively moving towards a garden we want to be in and we are no longer wasting money with filler plug plants or seed. Letting go of the fear of taking on the project and embracing the notion that we are going to make mistakes and that it is a learning curve is the best thing we have done for our garden here.
I will have more posts on the plants we choose and what we are doing in the garden and it’s slow progress at the moment thanks to the never-ending rain, sleet and hail but we are now entering the active growing/gardening season for 2018 and I have a feeling this year will see the most dramatic changes here at the cottage.
Wishing you the best for all your garden/growing plans this season. don’t forget to tag with #growcraftlove so I can follow along too.
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What a lovely lovely blog post to read Nadia, so well written, capturing you guys at this point in your gardening journey. So happy you both care about what’s planted.
Yes, keep dreaming, as time allows, over coming months – plenty of time for the practical over coming seasons/ years.
If you can, please read up on John Brookes and his thoughts/ practices on garden designs and spacial awareness. Probably one of the most important figures in garden design in the last 40 years.
All the very best, Hugh
Thank you Hugh! I was reading about the height depth spread rule as a 3 dimensional structure with repeated planting and I now can’t remember the book that was in but I can link you. I will have a look for John Brookes’ book 🙂 I just finished Down to Earth by Monty Don and about to start on the Dahlia guide Alison reccommended. I also think that knowing how our minds interpret shapes and knowing if you lean towards order or chaos helps to design a garden that will truly delight you. That’s just a personal interpretation though.
Very exciting! Will you be relandscaping it? This sounds like an episode of Ground Force!
We are doing some hard landscaping in the front over the next 2 years. Taking it on, on top of moving the raised bed planing into the greenhouse was too much for one year on top of the house maintenance so the hedge removal/replanting and demolishing the existing step is year 1 while year 2 is driveway and bed building. We are undecided about a pedestrian gate at the moment.