Creating a lovely garden

by frankbeswick

Humans dream of perfect gardens, and although this dream is rarely if ever realized, there are ways to make our gardens better.

The dream of Eden lurks in the human consciousness, and although we never can return to this pristine state, it stands as a constant reminder that things can be more good, more beautiful than they currently are. The secret to having a lovely garden is that there is no secret, it is knowledge freely available and open to all. There is no magic to it, and there are no special techniques that are the exclusive preserve of experts.

Photo courtesy of Pezibear

Time and the Garden

Eden was supposed to have been a perfect garden, the archetype of all gardens, but not so. There was one pest that was not eliminated and which brought down the whole enterprise. But is there any perfect garden, for even if you can look at your garden and say "It is perfect" [which none of us can] your experience is only a brief snapshot in the flow of time?The seasons roll on and the garden changes, and this is the key point, a garden is not a short term task and even the best gardens will, if neglected, turn quickly to weeds. I have seen a few sad cases,one only recently,when an expert gardener was taken seriously ill and been unable to tend his plot. It is heart-breaking to see the speedy decay of the  garden as its gardener contracted cancer. 

So the most important element in having a nice garden is the time that you commit to it. The commitment of time to  a garden is of critical  importance. It is no use doing the work in a mad burst of energy for a short time, for then the weeds will be defeated for a while, but when you relax they will return. You need to commit to regular work during the week, and moreover, on allotments we find that the best gardeners do not confine their work to the Spring and Summer, but they continue throughout the winter season, doing what is necessary to prepare for the coming year. 

I have thought for some time that a balanced energy expenditure is necessary, and this is where I tend to fall down a little. I have a tendency to attack jobs at maximum pace, going hammer and tongs at them, as the saying goes. But that can mean that you tire quicker. Find a steady pace at which you can cope and stick to it. An error that has blighted the English speaking world is the Puritan tradition that regarded rests as time-wasting. They are not, and it is wise to build in some rest time into your activity schedule. Finding time to sit a while will make you all the more productive.    

Sustaining motivation is important, for I have known several gardeners who have become disillusioned and given up.One way to sustain motivation is to find time to simply look and enjoy. Lean on your spade, survey your domain and  simply be happy. Also it is useful to enjoy the work. Sometimes when we work we become so completely focused on future goals that we forget to enjoy the present, so the joy goes from our work.  Thus work becomes a chore and we become disillusioned, but if we find contentment in the actions that we do rather than just in the goals to which they aspire and relish the moment we can sustain our motivation indefinitely. 

Welcome help from family and friends. There are some antisocial gardeners, but extra help has a double advantage. Firstly it means that more human hours are put into the garden than one gardener alone can give; secondly it makes the  gardening into a social, maybe family experience, which can  sustain and intensify motivation. I invite my family to  help with the allotment. My eldest son and his wife do, and my second son's wife is now keen on a role. This pleases me. 

A Floral Tunnel

A floral tunnel
A floral tunnel
Adith01

Skill

There is a myth that some people are "greenfingered" by which we mean that they have an innate aptitude at growing plants. I have never believed this, and so I do not  describe myself as greenfingered. For a while I taught gardening in a school for autistic teenagers and I found that any of them who wanted to could grow some plants. There is no esoteric knowledge involved in gardening. There are no special skills born into certain people, for the knowledge and skills can be attained by anyone. 

It  is important to realize that gardening is not a single skill, but that it combines a large range of abilities. Not every gardener is equally skilled in  all aspects of the task. So recognition of our strengths and weaknesses is vital. One of my strengths is that I know my soil very well, which is good for fertility, but one of my most intractable weaknesses is my struggle with the artistic skills involved in garden design. But we should never admit defeat, and if we lack a skill ensure that we make at least some effort to learn it, but at the same time realize that improvement is a never-ending task, for we can always be that bit better  than we are. 

Moreover, the skills and knowledge required for gardening cannot be acquired quickly.Acquiring them is an ongoing process of discovery. You can always find out more, so anyone wanting to develop a beautiful garden or in fact any garden should be ever alert to learn new things. Soil, for example, is a mysterious world not fully understood by scientists, for they cannot fathom the myriad of subtle interactions between the living creatures of the soil edaphon, the term that denotes  the living creatures of the soil. Knowledge of flower species and varieties and their requirements  in terms of soil, climate and care requires a vast degree of commitment. This is why some people specialize and become experts in a particular kind of plant and create their own collection. 

It is inevitable that people specialize. When I applied to the Chartered Institute of Horticulture to become a member I had to choose the area of horticulture in which I wanted to be elected. I chose amenity horticulture, for that is the area where allotments fit in, and I received my membership on grounds of a curriculum vitae that included the management of amenity horticulture and obviously writing about it. I specialize in vegetables, but I admit that I need to do more work on flower varieties. There is so much to learn!

Living Sculpture

A Topiary Sculpture
A Topiary Sculpture
Debu55y

Vision

Having a vision for your garden is so important, as it provides your guidlines for development. But vision needs to have macro and micro dimensions. Knowing the general layout of the garden is fine, but you need to ensure that you can translate it into the laying out of flowers in beds. There are no short cuts here. When good gardeners are laying out  a flower bed they trace the  design of the bed in lines of compost on the soil and then, if they are planting bulbs, deposit the bulbs on the ground where they are to be planted. Thus vision has to be implemented with meticulous care for detail. 

Take a look at the topiary sculpture below. The vision that created this and the technique that implemented the vision several hundred years ago have to be complemented by a meticulous precision in maintaining the shape by subsequent  generations. The magnificent topiary at Sizergh Castle in Cumbria, North West England is maintained every year, but the professional gardeners at the castle [now a National Trust property] take weeks every year just doing this one job, exercising skills with marvellous precision as they trim each twig.  

But the vision should not be static, for every garden is a moment in the flow of time. Your garden cannot stand still. Monty Don, the television garden presenter who gardens at the magnificent Longmeadow in Herefordshire, in recent years has had to rip up his box hedges when a box blight struck and replace them with yew. The great lawns of the stately homes in South East England have enchanted visitors with their well-manicured beauty  for many a year, but as global warming creates an even  drier climate in the South East of the isle and there are impending water shortages decisions about these water-demanding features must be made. 

Yet our  vision should not be over-narrow,limited to either a productive garden for vegetables or a beautiful garden. Take a look at the potager below. A potager combines the utility of the traditional English vegetable garden with the beauty of a French flower garden. It reminds us that every garden should be a spark lit from Eden, which was [mythically] a place beautiful, good and productive of  fruit. 

Gardeners should be prepared to feed their vision inspiration from as wide a range of sources as they can. To be a gardener should involve aiming for perfection, even though this goal may never be achieved. In a garden perfection is an ever-receding omega point, to borrow a term from Teilhard de Chardin, that draws us onwards but is never reached in this life. 

A Potager Garden

An ornamental vegetable garden
An ornamental vegetable garden
Sebastian Closs
Updated: 10/17/2017, frankbeswick
 
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frankbeswick on 10/21/2017

I am glad that you like the article. Your approval means much to me.

kimbesa on 10/21/2017

So true! I love the photos you chose to illustrate this article. And the reminder that it takes time, planning, effort and patience to have a wonderful garden.

frankbeswick on 10/18/2017

Iam pleased that you enjoy descriptions of gardens.

Veronica on 10/18/2017

C Money
Spot on. I love walking in a garden. It is total relaxation.

cmoneyspinner on 10/18/2017

@Veronica – Thanks.

@frankbeswick – I constantly receive eMails about new Wizzle pages but thanks be to God I actually have several work-at-home projects that are keeping me busy and generating income. Saw your Wizzle about the garden first thing this morning when I signed into my eMail and had to take a few minutes to pop in. I am not a gardener but I do find a lovely garden to be an irresistible place of comfort. I don't even have to physically visit the place. People could just describe the garden in words and I'm there!

frankbeswick on 10/18/2017

Correct. As we saw with the potager in the picture.

Veronica on 10/18/2017

BSG

Indeed courgettes ( zucchini ) have a beautiful flower that can in fact be eaten when filled with soft Italian cheese and cooked quickly. Delicious.

Veronica on 10/18/2017

CMoney

"the quest to recreate a Garden of Eden for oneself is probably even more intense than the search for Noah's Ark or the Ark of the Covenant"

What a beautiful comment that is from a lovely mind, no doubt.

blackspanielgallery on 10/18/2017

Specializing in vegetables need not preclude flowers, for same vegetables produce beautiful flowers. Some squash, for example, produce large, yellow flowers. And, planting such flowers as marigolds can be part of a natural defense against pests, since they are supposed to repel some insects. Of course, onions can also help with pest control, and are less than ornamental. .

frankbeswick on 10/18/2017

Recreating Eden is more important than the search for Noah's Ark, which, had it existed, would have rotted long ago.The search for the ark of the covenant is historically interesting, but for Christians the ark is a symbol of the old covenant replaced by Christ, so religiously it is of little concern to us. But to recreate Eden is to make the Earth sacred, and that matters.

I have not heard from you,cmoneyspinner, for some time, and so it is nice to read a comment from you again.


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