At this time of looking towards spring and planning our gardens, we must examine precisely how we want to garden. I’ve often mentioned that just as we make our homes reflect our personalities and philosophies, the gardens we create ought to do the same. The very act of gardening is a matter of exercising control over nature. Even the most natural looking garden has been contrived to look just so. It follows then to be conscious of the kind of control we use. What exactly do we want our gardens to say about ourselves? Are our ethics and ideals expressed? Is the garden an honest statement of who we are? Does the design of the garden and its plantings clearly demonstrate ones appreciation and respect for the environment?
These questions are relevant. The environment, left just as is, informs and instructs no matter what. Designing our surroundings with deliberation and purpose puts out the message that has meaning to us and enriches all who come into this space. Instead of leaving things to chance, here is the rare opportunity to get your say in a larger, more substantial way. If each of us gardened to state our values, the world would be in much better shape. Every one has the power to make a lasting impact on the environment. Lets make sure we make it a positive one.
With that in mind, here is my run down of what to take into account when gardening with presence and purpose.
Core values and abiding philosophies in protecting the environment – organic practices, native plantings outnumbering the non-native, shelters for wild life, compost bins, small lawn size and large areas of plantings.
User friendly and approachable – paths comfortable to walk on, places to sit, to play. Herbs and vegetables within easy reach so the cook does not have to make a trek to get the produce. Access to different areas should not require special effort or feel dangerous.
Easily connecting to nature by offering seasonal views, inviting birds, bees and other creatures.
A sense of humor – add elements of fun with sculpture, paths that create mystery, water features a cool tree house, plants that arouse curiosity, add color or look odd. The idea is to not take oneself too seriously.
Add interest – mix flowers and vegetables. Make a vertical wall garden. Convert a lawn into a meadow or a labyrinth. Create an orchard of espaliered fruit trees. Start a collection of specific plants.
Beauty and harmony – include trees, shrubs and flowering plants that are known for their stunning forms, shapes, variegated foliage and/or colors. Blend colors that please and complement. Strike the right balance so the garden is neither over nor under planted. Good hardscaping is very important but the plants should be the stars.
Flexibility – as you evolve, allow for the garden to evolve. When trees reach maturity and create more shade, change the plantings in its shadow accordingly. If health precludes certain chores, simplify those needs in the garden. Life is not static.
How a garden created with thought, passion and intelligence affects the world cannot be quantified. It is not tangible. Yet, it colors our thoughts, influences our habits, guides our choices and determines our wellbeing.
The deliberate garden reminds us that it is an honor and privilege to be alive.
(c) 2014 Shobha Vanchiswar