27 August 2012

The Naturalistic Look

"Are you leaving the garden?' asked my aged neighbour, a propos of nothing. I wasn't sure what she meant so carried on shouting whatever it was I was shouting. "Are you letting it go?" she interjected again. "I was looking over the fence and I thought, 'Kendra's decided to let her garden go.'" Now I got it. I pointed out that we'd been away for a few weeks and you know, we're all a bit busy to be gardening all the time.

On my way to the west country the next day I got a message from a production company saying they wanted to use the front of our sweet little cottage for a tv programme. They'd spotted it a month before and its slightly rambly front porch would be perfect. Ha, I thought, can't wait to tell the neighbour.

Self-seeded, relaxed, 'naturalistic' gardens are good for modern people without help. People born before World War Two might favour dahlias strapped against bamboo with white string but that is because they are following the old head gardener model. These days we don't like to tell the garden who's boss in such a bullying way. Design brings order out of chaos. But gravel is best without grass growing through it; a green path really shines when it's been edged, and a lawn should be of a  determinate length. Grass which is just long, with nothing growing in it but grass, drags down the whole picture.

Suddenly our garden has started to sink into the long grass. The meadow under the fruit trees is the same length as the lawn, with circles here and there where cats have been bedding down. After nine years of brilliance the lawnmower broke down, to coincide with the arrival of the film crew. (They filmed elsewhere).

Monty Don said on twitter yesterday: "The most interesting line a garden can walk is the one that marks the point between being and not being."

Or is it all about tidy grass?