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?


  1. ...we are lucky if we have a house near the plants so we can oogle their beauty and help out with the birds, bees, bugs

  2. Ah, but this is what Monty Don said:

    "the most interesting line a garden can walk is the one that marks the point between being and not being.The influences of the past 7 years. This is the really consuming issue for me. Nothing to do with management.
    It is about letting go enough so that there is a real chance of loss. Above all letting go oneself as maker/owner.
    Gardening without soul is just process. A horticultural plod. The only goal worth striving for is enlightenment.
    There is no One True Path. Enlightenment can just be a peep into Glory. Hints and glimpses.
    I think that two can be - probably inevitably - connected. Know thyself etc."

    Nothing to do with management, he says.So who knows what he meant? Mr Enigmatic.

    But it is true that the fashion for naturalistic is going to be an interesting challenge in a world preoccupied with weeds and tidiness. Personally, I would ban edging grass to the out reaches of Mongolia.


  3. After 15 years I am happy to say that my garden now looks after itself in a carefree way (between occasional mowing and sporadic weeding). Looking at the garden from above and not from the ground is a new kind of a pleasure. Though I'm not sure my clipped-lawn-dahlia-growing-neighbour approves.

  4. Garden snobbery and a rejection of the One True Path. It's a good mix.

    Coming up: How to edge grass like Beth Chatto.

  5. It's like learning to draw outside the lines. When is a scribble but a scribble?

  6. As someone whe went to Dorset for a week and came back to a jungle, I loved this blog. Definitely verge towards the 'naturalistic' myself, like to plant lots of hardy perennials (including veg) that take care of themselves & native wildflowers (weeds some may say). Imagine I'm creating a 'Natural' look that's wonderful for wildlife. I'm probably just lazy.

  7. Here, here. Though I've put down new thick gravel since writing this and the garden is looking more garden-esque again.