Recently, a pleasant and wellmeaning gentleman came to see my garden for a “beautiful gardens” event sponsored by the local paper. Though flattered to be considered, my garden is still too young for exposure to the wider world.
After his too brief visit I got to thinking on some of his comments and what makes a garden beautiful. My own small garden is a bit of a jumble, haphazard in design yet, for me, has a sense of being comfortable, like an old slipper.
My visitor told me of other gardens he’d visited, leaving me with the impression that his view of a garden must conform to some set of arbitrary requirements, not too tight, not too busy, not this, not that…and so on. I wondered what he thought of my garden? He had stood in one spot on the patio and never moved. He’ll never know of the small path leading to a fruit laden fig tree that shades a small fern garden, or the raised beds ready for harvest down the “dark side” of our house or the mix of perennials, tomatoes and corn, in the front garden. How can you feel a garden if you don’t walk through it, touch the plants, release the sweet fragrance of lavender or a rose, or the feel the lightness of a leaning stem weighed down by blossoms.
I have a friend who was a master gardener, her yard is tiny, yet crowded with a wild abandon, if it grows, I suspect she must plant it. A walk through her yard is as if you’ve entered into a magical cornucopia of texture, colour and scents.
My visitor, I suspect, would not have liked it. The garden he seemed to have enjoyed least was “too crowded” for him “too much” is what he said. I think I would relished this “too much” garden. not to be too judgemental, a formal garden has its place and done well is as inviting and relaxing as any other, but it must feel as though you are welcome!
In my garden, too much is still not enough! I want to experiment, create islands of colour or texture and secret pockets that surprise even me as they evolve and mature. Then, if need be, dig it up and start again.
Our town is a truly a charmed community, embraced by mountains and rivers, with a mild west coast climate that encourages adventurous gardeners to indulge in a long growing season. Back alleys provide a surreptitious view into many amazing gardens, often more interesting than those in front. For me, the standout gardens are the ones where plants are given room to spill over and mould the garden as though the gardener had not interfered.
So, if you’re out judging gardens, remember, like us – they come in all shapes and sizes, some more loved than others.