Pondering Imagination

Much of our gardening activities are routine, unexciting and undemanding on our intellect. This can leave the mind empty and relaxed, an opportunity for the mind to wander to stray thoughts, to  mull over those peculiar ideas which come along every now and then or to give deeper thought to things which have been ricocheting around the walls of the mind for some time.  

My recent ponderings began in quite a negative way, a reaction to an online post which caught my attention and my ire, I must confess, and it has taken a few days for me to sort out my thoughts on the subject. The person who posted has a small, suburban, housing estate garden yet wrote of the plants in the “woodland” garden. Now, with the best will in the world, there is no woodland in this garden and I reacted in my usual manner – in the style of Victor Meldrew, the character in the television series One Foot in the Grave – but not with his “I do not believe it” but my own “what in the love of god are they talking about!”

Might these areas, with a little imagination, be regarded as an approximation of woodland?

The Head Gardener always has a far more gentle reaction to such statements and is more likely to react with a “Ah, sure, what harm are they doing! They’ve got a great imagination and doesn’t it make them happy, the poor things, and who’d begrudge them their happiness?” Of course, she’s right and I agree with her completely but it can take a while for me to cool down and let it pass – the while will be longer if the one who makes the statement fits into the Emperor’s-new-clothes category, a person whose notions of their garden are far greater than the reality on the ground yet they continue speak glowingly, even boastfully, about it.

Of course, all my judgements are based on a thinking of the worst, something I am extraordinarily good at doing, a negativity rather than a seeking for the positive and this is what lead me to considering the place of imagination in gardening. Without imagination, I expect our gardens would be very drab affairs. We might well all develop the same garden without anything to distinguish one from another, no sense of flair or individuality, of self-expression and creativity. Without imagination our gardening experiences would be dull indeed.

Might I stretch my description of this area to calling it a meadow? We apply various names: in the early part of the year we call it “The Bulb Lawn” as it has crocus, snowdrops, daffodils, fritillaries. Then grass growth comes along and we call it “The High Grass” and it has plenty of wildflowers, none introduced but simply whatever grew, and camassias are coming into bloom with Common Spotted Orchids to follow.

Without imagination we would never have the wonderful displays at flower shows such as the Chelsea Flower Show or similar events. Granted, at times, we may look at some of these creations and wonder what the heck the creators were thinking of but even the very different and very challenging enrich our gardening experience and can inspire us to be a little adventurous ourselves. Not everybody would wish to have a garden along the lines of Diarmuid Gavin’s Garden of Pure Imagination but it was fun and enjoyable and a reminder that there is a place for imagination in our gardens and that it adds to the enjoyment.

So, isn’t is wonderful when a gardener can look at a tiny corner in the shade of a tree and see a woodland and introduce a selection of plants to fulfil that vision. And isn’t it fabulous when somebody can see a lakeside landscape in a small garden pond and find enjoyment and achievement in that. And the square metre meadow, grown from a “wildflower” seed mix which could well have been imported, can still invoke a feeling of nature and bring great enjoyment. With a little imagination we can find beauty in our gardens even if they are not on the grandest scale; we can find beauty in a single flower. A small corner that we have made our own with our own selection of plants will have meaning for us and will bring us great happiness and our imaginations will allow us to transcend the limitations and enjoy it all. Thank goodness for imagination!

A selection of images from the garden taken yesterday and today – not that they serve to illustrate my ramblings but, perhaps, those ramblings need something to brighten them up!

Nonetheless, I shall continue unabated in my normal behaviour of hurling abuse on those with self-important pretentions. The Head Gardener will continue to be exasperated with my behaviour but thankful that at least I am, in general, simply an armchair Victor Mildrew and that I behave reasonably well in public. If I had a little (a lot) more imagination I might be a different person and life for the Head Gardener might well be more pleasant.

15 thoughts on “Pondering Imagination

    1. But you wouldn’t speak of it in a boastful manner – it would simply be your wildflower meadow – not the very best etc etc wildflower meadow in the world.

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  1. So glad the Victor moments are temporary!!! Your wildflower area is a joy – definitely a mini- meadow at the very least!!!! I believe that even the smallest garden can fulfill the gardeners dream of woodland, meadow, fernery or whatever the gardener’s heart desires! Maybe the pretention is not boastfulness, just the sheer joy we all get from our gardens.

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    1. Oh, the Victor moments are a prolonged feature of life and the pretention of some is clearly boastful.

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  2. I think you can legitimately call that a wildflower meadow and that is definitely a woodland walk if not a wood. I think these appellations are often used simply for convenience – ‘wildflower meadow’ is easier to say than ‘patch of grass that is left unmoved so please don’t think I am being lazy’. I call my row of fruit trees ‘the fruit walk’ simply for convenience and to identify the area even though it should be called ‘those 13 plums, pears and cherries planted n a row that never produce any fruit’. The garden is looking amazing, as usual.

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    1. Of course, you are perfectly correct, yet there are some who use such terms in an over grandiose manner. The Head Gardener keeps me in check…to some degree.

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  3. I am on the Head Gardener’s side. Words are approximations – shade garden would probably have been more accurate than woodland garden. My sweetheart uses red border, stumpery and home farm as thebikinggardener says, for convenience. I have a tiny garden, rarely post about it and do not boast about it, but if people do feel pride in their gardens, that’s one of the few things I am happy for people to boast about, particularly if it is a nice one. You can sense pride in many gardens, just walking by, even if it is just a well-planted and accessorised container.

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    1. I must learn to be more understanding and forgiving. I must learn to be more understanding and forgiving. I must learn to be more understanding and forgiving – I was going to copy and paste to the 100 but you get the idea without my doing so!

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  4. You can be as cranky as you’d like.
    Without imagination I don’t think I would be able to continue gardening. The excitement of a bit of growth or new flower has me mentally ripping out everything and planting swathes of iris or glades of birches or a pinetum filled with little green lumps. Sometimes reality sinks in and I look around the garden with an honest eye and wonder how I could ever embarrass myself with an online photo, but then a clematis opens and I’m excited all over again.
    You would grumble to see my ‘orchard’.

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