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