Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 10 January 2014

Lessons from the Land

Sitting on top of a mountain pass may not seem the ideal time for a spot of garden thinking, but there's something about a holiday which enables a relaxed mind to wander off into a reverie which can be quite rewarding.

The above picture was my view from the Wicklow Gap in Ireland last September. I was sitting atop a rock like the ones you can see, trying to spot the distant blue of the sea on the horizon, with the sun warming my back and just the breeze and the birds for company. Bliss!

My brain stopped its frantic whirring so I was able to just sit, observe and enjoy the moment. Whilst the vegetation and bedrock there are nothing like what I have at home, I soon found some 'lessons from the land' which I could potentially use here.

The textural quality of this moorland grass illustrates less can be more. And whilst this was covering a wide open space, my homing in so it filled the picture shows it has possibilities for a smaller space like my garden. This was the effect I had in mind when I considered swapping my front lawn for a planting of Hakonechloa

My potted experiments with that grass proved the idea isn't really viable for my garden, but I believe this 'lesson' using a different grass for the border I asked about on Gardeners' Question Time last year has possibilities.

Here's another observation. I took this shot in the pouring rain, yet the purple heather and yellow gorse are still lighting up the landscape. As well as lining the mountain streams, there were vast ribbons of this combination hanging over the ditches at the side of the road like huge misshapen pillows.

This reminded me of the walls of my terraced beds, so I need to find similar colour combination for the replanting I'm planning for this year. A simple combination like this one needs plants which are long flowering - I'm currently considering a shorter Rudbeckia plus deeper purple Asters for this 'lesson'.

So, I have some inspiration from an unexpected quarter which I hope to implement later this year. Have you found ideas for your garden striking you at an unexpected time or place?


  1. That grass photo reminds me of festuca rather than Hakonechloa but I can quite see why you feel it wouldn't work in your front garden! Grass is so much easier! (Or try Scleranthus for some hummocks?) My rudbeckia doesn't usually flower until late summer but you'd get the purple and yellow you want from 'Cloth of Gold' wallflowers and some red curly kale! Ooops, there's that veg gardener in me slipping out!

  2. Hi Caro - Rudbeckia get going around July here and I have plenty of interest up to June which I'll be keeping. I'll be posting about my 'GQT border' quite a bit this year. I'm still researching the choices, it's amazing how much there is for what I thought was an unpromising patch. There's still one or 2 ideas from my Irish holiday to come, plus various suggestions people have made on Facebook and Twitter as well as those made by yourself and the GQT team :)

  3. I'm always on the lookout for ideas, although my garden is mostly a football pitch with nowhere for plants except pots on the patio. I like finding little ferns tucked away amongst stones and glimpses of beautiful gardens that inspire me.

    1. I have some ferns which appeared from nowhere and are earmarked for the 'GQT border' :)

  4. What an excellent post. I find I'm often too blown away with the moment to think garden and planting design when I'm looking at natural landscapes but I often see things in the photos afterwards that get me thinking. I see what you mean about the gorse and heather. There's probably some subtle colour echoes going on too - bluish tones in the rocks and golden highlights in the surrounding grasses.

    1. Thanks Catherine :) I was a bit surprised - this isn't the usual kind of inspiration which strikes me, but it was very welcome nevertheless.

  5. I do love the yellow/purple combination :)

    1. Even NAH could see the possibilities :)


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