It’s the time of year when the tree surgeon comes to see me in the garden. We talked about hedges and trees and the badgers (they’ve dug up the newly cut meadow looking for leatherjackets, chafer grubs and worms). Then he remarked that to him my garden is a “see through” garden: where you look through plants and planting to the beyond, “like lots of veils”. Of course he said just the right thing and I beamed with pride (what a charmer).
To me my garden is Romantic (with a capital R) and it is the use of transparent wafting plants (many of them grasses) that conjures up this romance. John Keats said “ what the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth”….
Sunlight filtering through grasses; dewdrop covered cobwebs; the filigree lace flowers of the carrot; all these moments are celebrations of the beauty of our planet.
This is not Mills and Boon…. More Wordsworth and Colleridge: surely our relationship with “nature” is a moral touchstone for our day-to-day lives?
Our world is increasingly urbanised, pressure is being put on natural resources and we are becoming conscious of our footprint on the planet. I see a movement in gardens back towards the “natural”: using nature and natural habitats as an inspiration to create not just beautiful evocative planting, but, to also give “something back to nature” in creating a habitat for wildlife that is sustainable and creates biodiversity.
It is important to understand that these are still heavily designed spaces. Nature is a muse and an inspiration, not the goal. The pastoral idylls of woodland glades, meadows and hedgerows that we evoke in these plantings are the result of man’s stewardship of the land, they do not naturally occur.
By making beautiful, aspirational, organic, wildlife-friendly, ecologically sustainable gardens we are making a political choice in our own private spaces and investing hope in a more harmonious relationship with the natural world.
So when Moldy Warp or Crock next dig up your lawn, try my mediation: breathe deep and quote Wordsworth.
Sweet is the lore which nature brings:
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:
-We murder to dissect.
Enough of science and of art;
Close up these barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.
Remember: the Romantics were more revolutionary than nostalgic. Instead of yearning for a Paradise Lost, our gardens could be a nature regained.