Seen at the Festival of the Tree

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

Friday, 20 March 2015

Let's Visit a Real Garden or Two

The entrance to Susan Tomlinson's Bicycle Garden
The entrance to The Bicycle Garden - thanks to Susan Tomlinson for letting me use her photo :) 
I'm showing you Susan's garden today because we've been having quite a conversation after her post earlier this week on Rules for visiting a private garden. By private she means ones like hers and mine.

Her gist is that visitors should be nice, be kind. I agree because I easily give myself 10 times the amount of criticism compared to anything a visitor might care to give. Susan's bravely illustrated her post with a picture of her garden's entrance, the kind of scene which might lead to the sort of negative remarks she talks about.

I saw that picture differently - it really made me want to visit Susan's garden because a) it has clues about her lifestyle and gardening in a different climate and b) I sense a kindred spirit. Here's why...

The side entrance to my back garden
Early Wednesday morning this week at VP Gardens

Can you see the similarities? Admittedly the area bordering our side path is mainly my utility and cold frame area, but I really should tidy it up a bit. NB that splash of red you can see at the end is the 'Anna's Red' Hellebore I told you about for January's Blooms Day. You can also see a bit of the public land next door which I often talk about.

And so to our conversation. After some general talk about how some visitors like to criticise, Susan asked a very important question:

On a related note, do you find that since you blog about gardening, people expect your garden to be perfect? Even *all year*? A bit of pressure there.

Ha - because I blog about gardening, my garden is even worse! I'm trying to spend more time offline this year so I can reclaim the garden.

At one time I did strive for perfection, but that all changed when I was off work with stress 10 years ago. I was shocked to find my manager's vision of 'what a good job looks like' was way below my standard and so I'd been wasting a lot of my time.

And whilst achieving perfection might just about be possible in a job, it's nigh on impossible with a garden except perhaps for the most fleeting of moments. There are far too many changing variables to take into account and besides, life's too short.

Instead I prefer to enjoy the moment and find pleasure in my garden's positives. The negatives will be taken care of - eventually. I've realised I have very little talent gardenwise, though I have improved - blogging about it has taught me loads and I'll carry on learning - but I also know my favourite garden is mine. Susan agrees:

Exactly. My garden is the most beautiful garden in the world. Warts and all. My reply:

It has to be - why else spend all that time and attention on it? Hurray for our gardens - warts and all.

And someday Walu and I are going to come to England. I promise to drop by your garden unannounced and demand a tour! 

And I'll be delighted to see you both! Hopefully I will have shifted the huge 1 tonne sack of conifer mulch on the patio by then ;)

A view of my back garden from the patio
Fresh growth is springing up this week and I'm finally using that bag of mulch you can just about see
on the right. I've spared you the sight of my washing - I'm celebrating its first venture outside this year

You're also welcome to come and visit my garden at any time - but let's just tiptoe past the shed on the way round shall we?

Victoria is the perfect garden visitor - she hasn't batted an eyelid at that huge bag of mulch on the patio. Instead we've enjoyed each other's company and simply being in the garden.

That's how it should be. Real Gardens. Real People. Good Times :)

You may also like:

VP's Open Garden - this separate blog from 2008 shows what the garden's like when I do look after it properly.

By a spooky coincidence Fran Sorin wrote a thoughtful post earlier this week about her experience of opening her garden formally to visitors. She tells us about what happened when it became less of a showpiece and more of a real garden.

24 comments:

  1. A lovely post, and I've just been to visit The Bicycle Garden as well, which is new to me. I try not to apologise for my garden when people visit. Friends will take me as I am, I hope. My garden isn't pretty at all, just functional, but I see little bits of prettiness in it that probably others can't. I'm very good at ignoring my washing line and the broken pots! CJ xx

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    1. I'm lucky that visitors are positive when they visit and I've learned not to list all the things I think are wrong with the garden when they give me compliments.

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  2. A lovely post Michelle, and you're right, it's about enjoying the moment most of time rather than trying to achieve perfection.

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    1. Thanks guys, enjoying the moment is something I need to do more

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  3. Perfection? Hah! I'd settle for fewer weeds... I've had no time to engage with my garden since Christmas, and it shows, badly, but I still love it, weedy warts and all. I was wandering around it the other day with my sil, and bless her, she didn't batt and eyelid, just engaged with my talk of what I hoped to achieve in, say, the weed-strewn wasteland of my front wall border. The best kind of visitor.

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    1. I love the sound of your SIL Janet :-) May you continue to love your garden weedy warts and all.

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  4. Excellent post!

    I'm a bit with Janet, but at least this is the time of year when you can get away with it. Last year I had my garden open at the end of April - only to the garden club, but 50 critical gardeners, eek - and P and I went insane. This year we're more relaxed and we've got more done. I'm feeling a meme coming on about real gardens, where we show things like the entrance by the bins and the dodgy bit by the oil tank. It's not all close-ups of flowers...

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    1. I love the idea of a meme - it reminds me of a blogpost Karen did years ago, I seem to remember showing quite a few close ups of the side garden in response to that ;-)

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  5. Our garden us in a state of flux at the moment so I would hate someone to visit it as there is not much to see.

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    1. Sounds intriguing Sue - are you changing everything around?

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    2. Our flower beds just need some renovating and replanting

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  6. ours is Jekyll and Hyde. Garden behind the crime scene tape, and builder's chaos along the house walls.

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  7. PS for your Blogroll?
    I have a new blog
    http://eefalsebay.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks Diana, will come over to say hello :-)

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  8. I'd be a bit suspicious of a garden that didn't have a big bag of mulch on the patio (or something similar) - it would suggest the garden didn't really belong to a gardener. I once visited an open garden and spent most of the time I was there inspecting the compost heap with the very enthusiastic owner (I asked him about it, but he was delighted to get the chance to talk about it!).

    I think when I visit a private garden I look for things I like in it though, so even if the overall garden isn't my sort of thing I can at least say "oh, I like that ... " whatever it is. I'd hope anyone visiting mine would do the same. Mind you, I am certainly showing my new front garden warts and all in the end of month views at the moment - even I can't find many good words to say about its former owners' taste!

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    1. One of my highlights of my visit to Great Dixter was their ginormous compost heap with a ladder propped against it. The head gardener at Yeo Valley's garden always starts his tour with their compost heaps. They're at the heart of the garden and form the basis of everything they do.

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  9. I find it comforting to see other people's less than perfect gardens. I tend to think everyone has a perfect garden except for me :-). We're in the midst of a major garden overhaul as it was getting to be too much maintenance and not enough joy. Now its looking a bit scalped.

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    1. Sounds like you've been working hard Kath - it will get better as the season progresses :-)

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  10. Absolutely right. Gardens are for living in and growing things and enjoying the visitors that appreciated it (birds, bees, butterflies, even slugs) - never perfection.

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    1. Good point, the most important visitors are the non human ones :-)

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  11. Gardens are special for different reasons and they all have great qualities. Happy Spring-time in the garden.

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  12. A garden or an allotment is always a work in progress and as long as it gives the person who tends it pleasure that's all that matters. As you say life's too short :)

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    1. Exactly, Anna. Happy gardening!

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