How to keep gardening!
This was the subject of our September meeting, a talk from Karen Hall. The question asked was ‘what happens to a garden when a gardener can no longer garden?’ Karen demonstrated that it is not so much a question of no longer being able to garden at all, but of being able to garden differently – of adapting. She went on to look at the best ways to produce something which looks wonderful by minimising the effort involved. Lawns are often an issue, for instance, and turning a lawn into a meadow – intersected with a few paths and mown once a year – is one solution:
And there were many others that were useful, like using more shrubs than perennials.
Here are more tips. Try:
- Having fewer varieties
- Using plants which thrive in similar conditions
- Planting in drifts or blocks
- Planning your planting in layers
- and keeping human intervention to a minimum.
But can this work? Most certainly. Karen’s focus is on design and planting and not equipment, so her suggestions were all about planning and not about long-handled tools, and she introduced the subject of matrix planting – of creating ‘self-sustaining communities in gardens by bringing together plants that meld with one another in a balance’. In short, of creating something which reflects a natural ecosystem through those layers of planting. Piet Oudolf, the Dutch garden designer, was cited as an example – wildish planting contained within mown lawns (precise edges make everything look better):
And he has described matrix planting as being like ‘a good fruitcake studded with treats’. His gardens embody so many of the hints above, with their layers of planting and use of drifts. Admittedly the lawns and hedges are not particularly low maintenance, but it does give an idea of what can be possible. Inspiring!