Tuesday, May 20, 2008

One approach to gardening

click photo to enlarge
One of the most attractive approaches to gardening can be characterised as "benign neglect": taking a garden that has been laid out in a traditional way and doing enough with it to ensure that it doesn't become an impenetrable thicket, but not so much that the hand of the gardener can be detected. So, trees grow large, shrubs spread, climbers climb, perennials intermingle, and the only annuals to be seen are the self-seeded descendants of those sown under the previous, more organised regime. In spring and summer such a garden is verdant and vigorous, a place where the fit survive in the race for light and life. But in autumn and winter there is often an air of damp, death, decay and dishevelment!

This approach to gardening is not for everyone. If you like order, sharp tidiness, variety, and clear seasonal succession, then "benign neglect" is not for you. But if you have a taste for soft edges, natural planting, shades of green, and sitting in your garden pondering rather than dashing round it grafting, then it's worth considering. Of course you will need to make the occasional foray into the undergrowth, but with a scythe or loppers rather than a hoe or fork. Some tools, such as the rake, will do nothing but gather rust in this kind of garden. Plants that become overgrown will need to be either rescued or left to their fate, however that turns out. So, this is not gardening for the soft-hearted either!

The other day I passed this Victorian house in Boston, Lincolnshire. I don't know whether its owners practise the kind of gardening I've described, but it had that sort of feel when I peered over the ornate gate. The windows were losing the battle against Virginia Creeper and wisteria, and the lawn was long with dandelion blooms and seed heads adding their May time colours. Trees and shrubs were making pools of shade under their arching branches, and weeds were encroaching on the gravel path. In short it was a wild, but attractive, vista. And nothing at all like my garden!!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 18mm (36mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/60
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On