In The Beginning …

With the landscape entirely blanketed in white, one can only stare so much at it before the risk of getting snow-blind becomes a distinct possibility. The way it looks right now, it might be eons before the snow melts away and we catch our first glimpse of lovely, sodden, rich brown soil. I can almost smell that earthy aroma – an uplifting fragrance from an improbable mix of humus and nascent leaves. Aaah – the heart remembers.

I turn away to rest my eyes and open my mind to contemplate the creating of a garden. Its a task thats been given to me by a reader who, in making lifestyle changes is ready to become a gardener. I’m particularly taken with this because I cannot recall ever making a conscious decision to become a gardener. It is something I’ve always done. In one form or other. Just like I cannot say when I began speaking each of the languages I’m fluent in. I suspect this is true for most of us. Over the years, we have acquired skills and knowledge along with bad habits and some firmly held superstitions. Suddenly, this looks like an excellent opportunity for everybody to review their gardening philosophies, methods and even their gardens. Whether one is an old hand or a novice at working the soil, it never hurts to periodically examine our intent and how we go about pursuing it.

Why does one garden at all? These days, the only reason ( the one that I believe that matters the most) to make a garden oneself is because there is a compelling desire to do so. Following a trend, protecting the pocket-book, trying to prove something are never adequate reasons – like anything else, if the heart is not in it then it will not be sustained or successful. Gardening is the happy nexus of science and art and is bloody hard work. Physical work that gets one sweaty and stained. It can thoroughly consume your time and bank balance if you let it. Non-gardeners will summarily dismiss the gravitas and value in gardening. The weather will play havoc with your efforts whenever it can. So, are you still interested?

Having established that garden we must, how we garden changes over time. Our needs, tastes, physical abilities and financial status changes over time and pretty much determine the evolution of the garden. The important factor here is – Know Thy Self. Know your tastes and preferences, understand your budget as gardening can be very costly if you don’t pay attention, be realistic about how much time you actually have to pursue it, acknowledge your limitations – gardens must be created according to what and how much one can do and finally, be very certain that this is what you really want to do. Half-hearted attempts will yield gardens with no style or spirit.

The best advice I can give is to keep it simple. To be creative requires dreaming big but ruthless editing. Creative ideas need room to grow and breathe.
Be practical and realistic. Plan and prepare thoroughly for maintenance well into the future. Think it through. Visit as many gardens as you can – for this, we are very fortunate to have the garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program to take advantage of. Plan your visits – Talk to the gardeners, take notes and photographs. As much as you will be inspired, you will also learn what you do not like or should not do. In the end, have fun and take pride – in the doing, the learning and the end results.

(c)2014 Shobha Vanchiswar

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