Nature has its own way of renewing itself on cleared ground. Slowly and surely, the earth turns green, floriferous and bountiful, as long-buried or bird-brought seeds spring to life in the wake of heavy dews or rains and the air is full of growing sighs and scents. Nature recreates, rebalances and reinforces the reality that natural harmony nurtures life — not just plant life, but microbial soil life, insect life, bird, animal and human life too.
Growth, with accompanying balance, is what we humans should also be aiming for when we go about the wondrous task of creating a garden from scratch. But often a serious lack of patience, underscored by current trends of having it all urgently, result in soulless gardens crying out for the love and attention they so rightly deserved from the word go.
When taking up residence in a new abode, which might be surrounded by piles of earth and builder’s rubble, the urge is to wave a magic wand and bring an instant garden to life. A lawn here, a flower bed there, trees for stature, and a fashionable vegetable patch hidden away around the back of the building where no one will see it unless specifically invited to. Contractors hired to get the job done will do exactly that. They are not being paid to think, but simply to do as they are instructed, as fast as possible so as to gain maximum financial advantage.
The finished instant garden will, no doubt, be satisfactory initially but, soon enough, dissatisfaction will begin to creep in. The trees are in the wrong place, flower beds are too big or too small, the vegetables aren’t growing as they don’t get enough sunlight, irrigating everything is a problem because water points are too far away from where the water is needed, and so on. Eventually, it is realised that the garden is an awkward chore rather than an anticipated pleasure. Basically, it needs a re-design.
Before you rush into designing a garden for a new home, work out its functionality and familiarise yourself with the climate of your space, its orientation and soil type
It isn’t until you have lived in a home for some time that, with careful and ongoing observation, you get an understanding of what can go where in the garden, of what is feasible and what isn’t, of what will work and what won’t.
Look at the garden area as a living, growing, work-of-art in progress. Accept that a truly wonderful garden, or a garden to dream in will not happen overnight. Creating it will take years of hard work and dedication to getting everything just right.
Sit and look at the view from each window, contemplate on what you would like to see every hour of the day. Treat each window as the frame of a potential painting and keep notes of how much sunlight/ shade each garden area gets. So that, when it comes to selecting plants, you know where to plant sun-loving species and where to put those that prefer a shady spot.
If possible, sketch out your ideas on paper and, when you have sketched the garden in its entirety, do it all again and again until you settle on a final design, one that is comfortable and will work for the life you live.
If you like to entertain, make sure that the entertainment area in the garden is private enough to be perfect, perhaps screening it from other buildings in the vicinity by use of trellises smothered in fragrant creepers or fruit-bearing vines.
If children are part of the family, designate a suitable and safe play area for them to romp and roll, and avoid planting either poisonous or prickly plants.
If growing some fruit trees is part of your overall garden design, there is nothing quite as relaxing as sitting in the shade of trees loaded with blossom or fruit and perhaps site a picnic/ afternoon tea, outdoor table and chairs in your orchard design. Orchards — more about them next week — can offer a micro-climate and environmental adventure all of their very own. They are to be treasured and physically enjoyed, not just to be looked at from afar.
Above all, as you come to know and understand the patch of precious earth over which you have been granted guardianship, you will also come to know what it would like to be, as believe it or not, gardens do have minds of their own.
Please don’t hide the vegetable garden round the back, in the dark and out of sight. It will not thank you for this. Give it love, light and exposure, and it will reward you in full.
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Published in Dawn, EOS, October 31st, 2021