Slow Gardening.

It’s a new approach, a better way to enjoy gardening. No more rush, rush, rush; no more quick fix; not more just getting the job done!

Mary has often commented that she can’t keep up with me in the garden; that I move along like a whirlwind. She, on the other hand, has always taken her gardening at a gentle pace and regularly gets “lost” in what she is doing. I have previously recalled occasions (Coffee Pot Gardening) of leaving for work in the morning and returning late afternoon to find Mary in the garden, in her nightdress/dressing gown, pottering about and her explanation would be, “I only came out to empty the coffee pot!”

I am inclined to be “task-orientated” – I set out to get the job done and often at a pace for getting the job done is what I have prioritised. These last two days have brought a change of pace. Our usual outside-the-home activities have been completely curtailed: we haven’t been away from home now for three weeks. We have completed a full circuit of the garden – every bed and border had been weeded, refreshed, mulched and whatever else needed done to it. Usually with us, gardening is a bit like painting the Forth Bridge – you only reach the end to begin again. However, in these circumstances, I feel we are ahead of ourselves and “getting the job done” is no longer the priority. Now, I go to the garden simply to garden – not simply to get it done!

Dykes with Lysichiton americanus and Ranunculus ficaria 'Brazen Hussey' (4)
The Dykes with Lysichiton americanus, Leucojum on the left and a Iris foetidissima ‘Citrina’ in the background.
Dykes with Lysichiton americanus and Ranunculus ficaria 'Brazen Hussey' (5)
Ranunculus ficaria ‘Brazen Hussey’ thrives in these conditions
Dykes with Lysichiton americanus and Ranunculus ficaria 'Brazen Hussey' (6)
Ranunculus ficaria ‘Brazen Hussey’ with some of the ordinary wild Lesser Celandines growing among them – these had to be weeded out.

Mary is a great one to keep me busy. At times, I imagine she looks on me as a child and knows that idle hands are the devil’s workshop; that I am better kept busy than being left to my own devices for, if left so, I might well decide on some project which would not fit with the masterplan (her masterplan, for she is the Head Gardener and I the Under Gardener).  With that in mind, I imagine, she said that Lesser Celandine was becoming rampant in the “dykes” and wondered if I might tackle the problem and remove it. This is a slow job, a fiddly job, and especially so as we had allowed and wanted another celandine, Ranunculus ficaria ‘Brazen Hussey’, to continue to grow there. Now, both were intermingled and it took care to separate them. These celandines are tough little plants and there was little fear that I would ever eliminate ‘Brazen Hussey’ regardless of how roughly or quickly I approached the job but it was a job which slowed me down and I actually began to enjoy it, in a very contemplative way!

Snowdrops in Ash bed (2)
The narrow border in spring with snowdrops in flower and Ribes laurifolium beyond.
Ash bed path Geranium cantabrigense 'Karmina'
The same border in summer when Geranium cantabrigense ‘Karmina’ in flower. This stretch of geranium all came from one purchased plant – it is very easy to propagate.

As I continued in the garden this morning – in the same very relaxed and slow manner – it came to me that “slow gardening” has much to recommend it. There was a movement, “Slow Cooking”, a few years back, a reaction to the fast-food or prepared-food trend and encouraged people to return to home cooking, an activity which had been in decline, it seems. “Slow gardening” could well be the same – a suggestion that searching for the instant garden, the quick effect is not the best approach and that taking time to enjoy doing the garden has much to recommend it. “Slow down and smell the daffodils” might be an appropriate comment at this time of the year.

My gardening today was slow gardening with time lavished on a narrow border which runs between The Dykes and The Ash Bed. They dykes are just that, the old field drain tidied up a little, walls/dams built to slow the flow of water and prevent it washing away the soil of this border for it can be a torrent in winter. The Dykes are not a location for precious things: Lysichiton americanus (Skunk Cabbage), Zanthedeschia aethopica (Calla Lily), Iris foetidissima ‘Citrina’ (a pale yellow form of the native flag iris) and Leucojum aestivuum (Summer Snowflake) with a mixture of Japanese primulas all do well here and need very little attention.

Trillium chloropetalum
Trillium chloropetalum does very well in this area and inspired me to plant a few more trilliums.
Trillium albidum (1)
Trillium albidum grows well also and self-seeds generously.
Trillium albidum seedlings
Seedlings of Trillium albidum – the bare patch is where I lifted some to plant in the narrow border.
Trillium kuyabayashi and T. albidum newly planted out.
Today’s planting: Trillium kurabayashi to the back and Trillium albidum in front. Ribes laurifolium behind and hellebore in the foreground.

The narrow bed is mainly home to a selection of snowdrops which are followed by a small pink geranium, Geranium cantabrigiense ‘Karmina’. There are a few hellebores, a patch of Solomon’s Seal and a sprinkle of daffodils. The Ash Bed gets its name from the line of ash trees which are growing on the boundary ditch. It’s good to have mature trees on the boundary but they come at a cost: Ash trees seem to constantly drop debris, small twigs and endless seeds which germinate in their hundreds. The ash trees also soak the moisture from this area in the summer so it is planted mainly for spring interest.

Pheasant (1)
Work was interrupted for a minute – one of the hungry beggars coming for her afternoon snack.
Pheasant (3)
And she’s happy now as she has been fed.

I picked my way slowly along this narrow border today, removing ash seedlings (difficult to spot at the moment as they are not in leaf), taking out the myriad ivy seedlings and clearing all the debris. This debris doesn’t do any harm but it can make the area look a little scruffy and untended – so, away it went. There were a few clumps of bluebells, the Spanish Bluebells which are an aggressive weed here, so I took them out and put in a few small plants of Trillium kuyabayashi and a number of seedling Trillium albidum both from elsewhere in the garden. I also came across a snowdrop I had “mislaid” – I hadn’t taken notice of it for a few years and thought I had lost it. It is one called ‘Irish Green’ and, to be honest, it doesn’t really appeal to me, one of those with a very oddly-shaped flower, a “spikey” as such are called, but for the name alone I wished to continue growing it. The reason I hadn’t seen it for a while was obvious – the clump was congested. The bulbs were lifted, the ground dug over, a generous amount of leafmould dug in and I replanted the bulbs now spread out a bit. They will be fine next year.

Galanthus nivalis 'Irish Green'
Galanthus ‘Irish Green’ was congested and had stopped flowering. It has been replanted with lots of leafmould and should be fine again next year.
Leafmould
Brown Gold – leafmould, 2017 vintage!

With the clean-up done, I applied a mulch of leafmould (the very best food for snowdrop bulbs), gave a quick sweep to the path and called it a day. Slow gardening has much to recommend it!

Ash bed path (1)
Before shot
Ash bed path (2)
After shot – leafmould mulch applied and path swept…slowly!

 

The photographs today were taken on my ‘phone camera – so, apologies, for the poor quality.

24 thoughts on “Slow Gardening.

  1. Lovely pictures and good article. We are trying g to get on top of weeding while confined to the house. We are lucky to have a Farm shop and garden centre just 2miles away. I have reporte 18 Hostas to date. Wild Primroses are doing well and I have planted a lot more in different places. Luckily we have had a few nice sunny days.

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  2. So true, Paddy! I found time the other day to remove all the dead leaves from Omphalodes Cappadocica ‘Starry Eyes’ that was looking nothing before it was tidied – and I was also contempleting the relaxed attitude to the garden when one is not running off somewhere to non-gardening activities!

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  3. I loved your comments Paddy and have recently discovered slow gardening as well so it’s already taking off around the world ….smile . It’s only since New Zealand has been in recent lock down that I’ve realised for as long as I can remember my day job as a gardener where the pressure is on to provide value for clients and ‘ being always on the go ‘ has shaped the way I garden at home…In the process of building a limestone crevice sand bed this last week I’ve been constantly reminding myself to slow down and try to be less task orientated as there are at least another 3 weeks of self isolation …..and I must say it’s been enjoyable experience. Kind regards Dave T.

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    1. The plants with the big yellow spathes are the Lysichiton Americanus.The only other yellow are Cowslips, Primula veris – the pheasant is standing beside them in one photograph.

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  4. In the last two photographs, Doreen? These are Lysichiton americanus, Skunk Cabbage. They like damp conditions and self-seed here. This plant was classified as an invasive alien a few years back and it is not permitted to offer it for sale now. Over twenty years, it hasn’t gone very far here but I have those walls as a barrier and it has never travelled further down the dykes which run for another 30 – 40 metres.

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    1. Yes, these are doing very well for me – after years of trying various others with limited success. These came from friends’ gardens which I think is a good idea – a plant already growing well will most likely to continue to do so. They are self-seeding for me now: T. chloropetalum, T. albidum and T. kuyabayashi. Others continue to grow but not thrive.

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  5. I so enjoyed visiting your garden today, Paddy. The older I get, the slower goes the gardening! However, I enjoy it so much more when I move at an unhurried pace and stop frequently to take in all the beauty!

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    1. I find that I actually do much more “gardening” rather than simple maintenance when I go slowly. When I see something which might be a good idea – to move a plant, to find something elsewhere in the garden and bring a piece to the spot where I am working, so split and spread a plant etc etc all jobs that might otherwise be left until I was finished what I was doing at that moment…and, of course, then forgotten. I do what strikes me as a good idea there and then, no rush these days. I “weeded” two large beds yesterday and, if I had put the weeds picked in my pocket, they wouldn’t have even made a bulge in it.

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  6. Lovely garden – and even your phone camera gets the job done well enough for us to see your attention to detail!
    As the founder of Slow Gardening International (working with the Slow Food folks in Italy – Google it)) and author of a book by that name, I do think it’s more than just taking it easy – it’s about anticipating and savoring what you do, and sharing with others. And you obviously do. (I also enjoyed your reflections in your latest post about morning aches, with which I also identify).
    Cheers, from an American gardener who also moves soil around a bit in a Lancashire terrace garden…

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    1. A soul mate! Great to hear from you. Yes, we continue on our slow gardening here and are enjoying it very much. My apologies for the ‘phone camera. It is convenient when working in the garden, dirty hands etc, but is so difficult to use. I find it very awkward to see what I am photographing in the screen and the quality is not good. I generally take out the camera at the end of the day – when I have cleaned my hands!

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