Friday, 26 November 2010

Gardening ~ possibilities & pitfalls, costs & rentals

Gardens differ so much - in setting, size and scope...

The garden I grew up with was a large, rambling, hillside garden tumbled with friendly rocks and cloaked with trees and shrubs.  It was a place to escape into, to take refuge in, which has provided an endless source of inspiration, but was also a lot of work.  Too much of it.

My loving regard for that garden and awareness of its high maintenance needs shaped the way I think about gardens in general.  Fundamentally, gardening has got to be a pleasure.  If it isn't it becomes a burden, however beautiful it may be. So when I'm thinking about developing a garden I give consideration to making it as easy as possible to look after - now and in the years to come.

A glimpse of my childhood garden

Other gardens I've been closely involved with over the years:
Three have been especially significant.  They include a small suburban garden in which I had considerable scope for planting and a reasonable amount of money with which to do it; a stream-side rental property of which I adopted the stream banks which were the responsibility of the local council and which I made into a wilderness garden; and the rental property where we live at present which had no plantings whatsoever when we came to live here, other than an unsatisfactory lawn and some bits of hedge.

The small suburban garden

Each of these gardens has presented a very different set of possibilities and constraints, just as each has been the source of much pleasure.  In the process of developing each of them I've learnt a great deal about compromise and to be more discerning about weeds and over-growth. 

Gardening needn't be costly.  
Rather to my surprise I have to acknowledge that the less money I've had to spend, the more pleasure has resulted.
     Gardeners tend to be friendly and to enjoy sharing cuttings, seeds and surplus plants.  Masses of plants get discarded all the time.  I abhor waste and love plants, and have found that expressions of polite interest have resulted in being offered more plants than I have places to plant them!  When I'm given something I make an effort to give something in return, whether it's afternoon tea, some baking, or a hand in someone else's garden, it's all part of the reciprocal generosity that keeps us all thriving.
     Nature epitomises this generosity in its abundant growth and seed dispersal.  Many of the plants in my present garden originated elsewhere and have been carted about in pots and carefully planted.  I always have heaps.  However much I vow I'm not going to have anything in pots any more I inevitably find I fill them up again with something else which needs a home or which needs to be put somewhere else, sometime, some day.  I have enough for myself, and plenty to share.  A box in the garage is packed with envelopes of seeds of one kind and another, most of which I've plucked from seed heads in various gardens over the years. 
    Occasionally I actually buy things but mostly have no need to. 

What do you like?
In thinking about your own garden, I suggest you think about what you best like, and then start with what you have.  Having said that, what do you want to look at?  What are your favourite flowers, shrubs and trees?  Are they suitable for where you live?  If you start with the bits that you know and feel sure about you'll very likely find that other things fall into place over time.

Gardening, like anything in nature, takes time:
For me the pleasure is often as much in the creation as in sitting back and admiring it, so a garden in progress can be very satisfying. It gives a sense of belonging, and delight in the land like nothing else.  Allowing a garden design to unfold and evolve over time provides a lot of scope for experimentation and adaptation, for some plants to prove their suitability and for others to fade away or be removed.  If you follow this approach you'll get a richness of planting and layout which is unique to you with which you have a very personal connection. 

The challenge of gardening in a rental situation: 
This is a big topic, which I'll touch on briefly here - to give encouragement rather than discuss in depth.  I've found it immensely worthwhile as well as frustrating.  I've had to compromise considerably in comparison with what I'd do with properties if I owned them, and bear in mind that I may not be there long, as well as the chance that when I leave no one else will bother.  However, I've still found it worthwhile: I get to enjoy it while I live there, and if it's pleasant and easy to maintain it may inspire others to continue on with it in their own way after I've gone.
     Taking this into account I use plants that grow easily, are easy to trim and remove if wished, and  am clear that some personal plants go with me.  I've got irises in the garden here that originated in my childhood home, and a rose which has travelled with me from place to place over the last twelve years, and various smaller plants for which I have a fondness.  By extraordinary good fortune I've managed to propagate the rose, and the irises have now filled up an entire border, so whatever I take with me, there will still be plenty left.  And while they've been in the ground they've done well, given me much pleasure and made the place special to me.  They mark clearly the place where I belong - for the present.

Permanent only ever means 'for the foreseeable future', which may be long or short.  
We never know what the future holds or when we may need to uproot ourselves and go elsewhere.  To put off starting a garden because we are unsure is to put off life.  Enjoy it, do it, and spread the love!  Ripples spreading out...

My wilderness garden

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