Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Untidy? Chaotic?

Or is it just beautiful as it is?   We are talking gardens here and I really do wonder whether we have become so obsessed with weeds (so called) that we spend far too long going over the borders and trimming the lawn edges and not enough time actually enjoying the scene.

Some years ago Mirabel Osler wrote a book called 'A Gentle Plea for Chaos' and I thought about it yesterday as I walked down the Lane.

In the distance of about a quarter of a mile I saw, along the verges, stitchwort, buttercups, early purple orchids, red campion, cow parsley, wood avens and ladies' bedstraw.   They were growing in the roadside grass, pushing their way through to the light and producing the most beautiful effect.

Osler believed that the very soul of a garden was destroyed by what she called 'shrivelled and zealous regimentation'.   Maybe, to some extent, that time has passed.   Surely, apart from Parks and Gardens planting, nobody uses a ruler these days to bed out rows of salvias or petunias?   But that doesn't mean that most gardeners don't go round zealously cursing and digging up what they choose to call weeds.

Have you looked closely at a buttercup?   Have you stood in amazement on a bright sunny day and marvelled at a field full of them?   Why should they be so very beautiful, lift the heart in fact, in a meadow and yet so hated in a garden?

Ronald Blythe, the author who himself has a couple of acres of garden and is now well over ninety, has a very laid back attitude to the whole thing.   He leaves red campion, cow parsley and buttercups where they choose to grow, not removing them until they have finished flowering and set seed for next year.   He calls it 'The Giverney Effect'

This is not a plea for all gardeners to have wild gardens.   There is an old joke about a man in his garden and a visitor remarking how wonderful God was in the garden.  He replies that the visitor should have seen the garden when God had it to himself.

Neither is this a plea for roadside verges to be left untended.   They would become a hazard when it was no longer possible to see oncoming traffic.

But moderation in all things would seem to be the order of the day.   Both in our gardens and in our roadside verges, couldn't we just use a little discrimation - perhaps leaving plants until they had seeded for next year?   Anyone who has driven along a roadside during May has surely marvelled at the thousands of golden dandelion discs lining their route, and (because the dandelions are not in their garden) remarked at their beauty.

So let us please try to follow Osler's idea of a Gentle Plea for Chaos.


Heather said...

I agree totally Pat and have the most magnificent buttercups in my garden, but as it is small some of them have to come out. I also have splendid nettles which have established themselves between the base of a shrub and the wall, but I tell myself butterflies might lay their eggs on them. Herb Robert is another pretty plant which is allowed to stay, growing happily where anything I bought from the garden centre wouldn't last five minutes.
It is good to know that councils are being advised to cut only the first 2 or 3 feet of roadside verges, allowing wild flowers to flourish in the remaining space. The situation with our rapidly declining bees is very worrying and even these little things might just help them survive.

Tom Stephenson said...

Did you know that your post coincides with a campaign launched today by Prince Charles to reinstate the 97% of all flower meadows destroyed since WW2, as a long-term celebration of the Queen's Jubilee, Weave? At around £700 per acre, it might be a slow uptake.

Em Parkinson said...

Absolutely. I try and fill the garden with as many native wildflowers as I can and, of course, they are far more successful than anything else. I'm beginning to wish I'd left the Red Campion out as it's running a bit wild everywhere!

MorningAJ said...

I like to see wild flowers. I have to admit I have a few in my garden - unintentionally. But I know they attract insects and other wildlife, so I'm not too keen to get rid of them until they look untidy and overgrown.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

I've always been in favor of wild things in the garden, and it it spreads and fills in spaces - a bug Hurray!!!! I am thrilled when we finally find our first dandelion - they can fill my garden if they like (are you listening dandelions?). Our lawn is now half covered in buttercups - little dainty yellow stars in a sky of green - and I had to do nothing to get this beauty to come to my lawn.

My lawn mowing boy comes tomorrow - and my lawn shall be back to green for just a few days. I do like a mowed and edged lawn, but I love that the buttercups come back to decorate it.

Foxgloves grow wild here - in masses on hillsides and I've often gone to the quiet side roads and dug up a few to put in my garden and then have reseeded wonderfully.

Irene said...

I am very lucky in that the fields that are by my house, and that do get mowed regularly, are always full of dandelions, daisies, buttercups, and all sorts of other wildflowers. When I take the dog for a walk, I marvel at all of them and can't believe my eyes. I'm so glad that no weed killer gets sprayed on the fields, because that would be the worst thing in the world. Mother nature is allowed to go her way.

angryparsnip said...

Shows how daft I am I thought Buttercups were flowers and not weeds. I assumed much like the wild Poppy that grows in Arizona and California.
I like a wild mixed garden I think they are beautiful.

cheers, parsnip

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for calling. Yes Tom, I did hear about Prince Charles's initiative - we were talking about it this morning at our writers' group. I hope people take note because there is definitely a shortage of pollinators and the wild flowers are sorely needed. We don't do too badly in our area as we have quite a lot of protected wild flower meadows.

Hildred said...

Oh Pat, you are preaching to the converted. You have seen pictures of my chaotic garden, I'm sure.....

elaine rickett said...

I am very much of the 'if it wants to grow there, leave it' type of gardener. So 'chaos' is definitely my kind of gardening. My husband usually mows the verge in front of our house but for some reason didn't for a couple of weeks and it was surprising what wild plants showed their faces. A veritable meadow emerged.