Words ramble less widely than thoughts, especially so when thoughts flow in pictures. But they ramble much further than even the wornest of worn hiking boots – before they settle, sometimes restlessly and uneasily, in notebooks and blogs – like this one and countless others.
What does this have to do with gardening? Nothing really. The wind is raging outside, heavy rain is on its way and the builders have confined us to the kitchen which we’re treating as an internet café. We’re grazing our way through the day. Bloke is choosing paint colours for his horse-box, Boy is You Tubing his favourite gamers, the dog and cat are happily snoozing and I’m gazing over my screen out of the window. Plotting, imagining, planning, rejecting wild, uninvited, fleeting thoughts pertaining to the ridiculous and impossible (like a circular bandstand in the middle of the lawn, for example) and trying to focus down on what might plausibly be achievable.
The rain is here. It’s strangely, defiantly vertical against the backdrop of swaying, blown trees – like upside down pendulums swinging skywards from erratic, broken clocks.
Cultivated towards the front. More naturalistic towards the back. And transitional in-between. A summary of what may be. ‘Naturalistic’ is a more honest description than ‘natural’. It is a garden after all. It doesn’t matter how many native species I plant or how closely I try to emulate the local woodland habitats, those being Clumber Park and Sherwood forest (try reproducing a hybrid of those in your back garden!) the reality is that the garden will never be ‘natural’ – purely by virtue of its own intrinsic nature. Unless you subscribe to the notion that anything and everything that ever happens and becomes in this world is ‘natural’ because ‘miraculous’ would be the only alternative explanation; that deforestation, plastic saturation and the impending sixth extinction are simply extremes of the ‘natural’ phenotypic extension of what we call humanity. I’m not sure anyone would want to claim that miracles are to blame for all the horror. If they did they’d be wrong, on all counts. There is blame to be laid but we all already know where that lies. Anyway, I digress. The garden is a place of creative joy and respite away from all the shit. Unless you’re knee-deep in a delivery from your local stables.
The birds rarely visit the feeders in the rain. I can’t say I blame them. We’re all taking shelter today. I catch sight of a weather-hardy blackbird out the corner of my eye every now and again, tugging on a worm or doing that funny little ‘head down, back flat, run!’ thing that they do. But otherwise it’s quiet outside. Apart from the sound of the rain and the occasional whirr of a circular saw.
Cultivated towards the front. More naturalistic towards the back. And transitional in-between. I know I said that already. But once an idea takes root and begins to grow, however slowly, with or without your conscious attention, it will eventually actuate some degree of physical change in the material world and before you’re even vaguely aware it’s happening your car is struggling uphill under the weight of grit, compost and top soil and your passengers are all evergreen shrubs, wearing seat belts and enjoying the ride.
I’ve drawn more than a couple of pencil sketches of possible future worlds outside the window and made an ever-expanding, Latin wish list of botanical names that I’ll never remember and which, in any case, couldn’t possibly all fit into the available space (or fit aesthetically or ecologically together for that matter). But they’re all just possibilities right now and I’m enjoying the freedom of the creative process. Understanding and acknowledging that nothing remains the same for very long in any garden is truly, creatively liberating because it opens up both conceptual and physical space for experimentation and change. That’s not to say that the plants themselves should become victims to or suffer from unthoughtful or indiscriminate whimsy. I believe the gardener certainly has a duty of care towards the individual plants and the garden as a living whole. I think it’s very simply a matter of respect and I suspect it originates from the same place as wonder and awe.
A great tit is braving the downpour for sunflower seeds, a raw food favourite in this garden. The wind has stilled. Last year’s recently re-emerged tulips have already given up their search for the sun today and the wood anemones are keeping their petals tightly closed against the changeable weather. But buds are also emerging and swelling in pockets around the garden and an air of expectancy fills the spaces in-between the rain like hellebores between Seasons and gaps between words.
The rain looks to be slowing. The dog is asking to be let out and I could do with some fresh air. I think I’ll go and trace a few imaginary paths through the transitional in-between garden just to see where they might take me.