Saturday, 17 April 2010

Accidental Gardening.



There are many uninvited visitors to my garden. Most of them are welcome; only a few are not.
I like to let things happen, to create an environment and stand back and watch.

These primroses crept in quietly last year; just a couple of tentative leaves in a sunny spot at the foot of a bamboo clump. A year later and they have really got their roots down and claimed their territory. By next year I hope their offspring will be settling in.
There are no other primroses anywhere near, so how did they arrive?

The opportunism and tenacity of many plants fills me with admiration. Some travel around the garden, from one side to another, from top to bottom, without any help at all from me. They grow in places that the gardening books tell me are wrong for them - too dry, too wet, wrong soil. No one told the plants, and they don't seem to mind one bit.

This happy combination of violets and cyclamen has tucked itself into the gravel beside the back doorstep. These violets (viola Labradorica) have a reputation for clumping, but have instead arranged themselves into scattered groupings with cyclamen hederifolium, which in turn have travelled around the garden, appearing in all sorts of unexpected places.




I couldn't have done better myself. Indeed, if I had tried to transplant and arrange them they would probably have died on me.

I admire the rampant sexualtity of geraniums (the perennials, not those half-hardy bright red pelargoniums at their best in public parks). They have wonderful mechanisms like medieval sling-shots, which catapult the seeds across the garden, making sure they reproduce themselves a hundred-fold. They are understandable, but I cannot understand how Solomon's Seal (polygonatum multiflorum) travelled from the back garden to the front, and having settled at the front, also moved across the garden from side to side. I'm delighted. I love the plant, but it comes in a big pot from the garden centre. It's a big plant. How does it saunter about like this?

Last year a wild orchid appeared in a patch of decorative grasses. An orchid! I don't know if it has survived the harsh winter, but I'm hoping. I'm hoping there may even be more than one.

We constructed a pond many years ago and watched as within a matter of days there were pond-skaters all over the surface. Within two months there were frogs, damsel flies, dragonflies, and a grass snake, and within three months the heron had found it.

Clever, opportunistic wild creatures as well as plants, watching our activities, biding their time, staking out their claims, and creating the sort of garden I could never make by myself.

12 comments:

Molly said...

Your garden reminds me of my favourite aunt's. It had old stone walls all around it and lovely relaxed flower beds with happy accidents, such as those you describe, which she was happy to encourage. The best part was an overturned dustbin lid, which was a popular bathing spot for local birds, and my now 37 yr. old daughter's favourite place to splash!

Frances said...

Those wanderers delight me too, RR.
Recently we opened a section of previously dark, neglected garden, and among the weeds that leapt to life and jostle for space, are 4 tomato plants. Now where did they come from?
I've noticed that generally the self sown need less nurturing: they have found a place that suits them, and are pretty self sufficient.

Relatively Retiring said...

Molly: I hope your master gardening course allows happy accidents - and that your 37 yr. old continues to enjoy the dustbin lid!
Frances: Thank you for the comment. Apparently there are always lots of tomatoes growing around sewage farms, the seeds survive the alimentary tract. So perhaps it's better not to speculate too much about the bottom of your garden!

pohanginapete said...

The resilience of nature encourages me. Things are going from bad to worse here in New Zealand, with a Government seemingly hell-bent on selling anything that might bring in a few dollars — they're suggesting our National Parks and other highest-value conservation lands should be opened up for mining, for example — so sometimes I wonder what will be left. But then I read reminders like this — that nature has an enormous capacity to survive and recover, and I remember there's still joy in the world. Thanks for the reminder :^)

Relatively Retiring said...

It's so sad to read this of New Zealand, which seems to be promoted as Paradise Islands by the travel agents here - green, pure, untainted and all that Lord of the Rings whimsy.
We all need to be reminded of the humbling power of nature. A slumbering volcano awakes and the skies over Europe empty of everything but birds.

Isabelle said...

In my garden, alas, various thug-like plants run rampant and of course weeds - particularly hairy bitter cress - seed themselves with abandon. But peaceful little things like primroses don't suddenly appear!

J. said...

My mother in law was an accidental gardener and her garden was full of beauty and wonder...
Nature, left alone, is perfectly capable of creating a wonderful world and we interfering humans should learn her lessons
n'est-ce pas?

Relatively Retiring said...

Isabelle and J: I leave nature selectively alone! My garden is infested with ground-elder and bindweed, which are dug out assiduously. Apparently ground elder was introduced by the Romans as a vegetable crop (I wonder if anyone has tried this?)and bindweed has those wonderful flowers....but there are limits!

Peregrina said...

Accidental gardening appeals to me. I have calendula, forget-me-nots, larkspur, cornflowers, blue borage, nasturtiums and aquilegia springing up in the vegetable plots in the back garden, and parsley, silver beet and pumpkins popping up in the flower borders in front of the house. There's a single asparagus plant - the only one in the garden - among the flowers, too. Goodness knows where that came from. In the border where it's growing, between a path and the boundary fence, I removed concrete which I was told had been laid by previous residents in an attempt to stop the neighbour's twitch from coming through. (It didn't stop it - does anything? - and years later I'm still fighting the remnants.)

Mostly I leave all these strays where they are, except for the pumpkins which I confine to whichever compost heap is resting. I enjoy the splashes of colour among the broccoli and broad beans, while honey and bumble bees as well as yellow admirals and monarch butterflies love the nectar. The parsley and silver beet are not only decorative among the flowers, but provide an extra supply if I've over-picked the intentionally planted ones.

Relatively Retiring said...

Peregrina: Oh, this all sounds so familiar! You'd be totally at home in my garden.
Cherish the asparagus - we're just entering the start of the season, and I'm the heart of Asparagus Land. My next enjoyable task is making the Hollandaise sauce.

J. said...

Ground elder was a Roman food?
I wish I'd know that sooner. i can now become a purveyor of ground elder at the local French market, there's certainly enough in the garden!

Ground elder with snails...
Think it will take off as a local delicacy?

Relatively Retiring said...

J: Go for it! Young, freshly picked Ground Elder: treat it like spinach, steam lightly, toss in garlic and unsalted butter with snails. Do you hsve a recipe for slugs? Only snails without shells now we're getting down to basics,