Verbena Vonariensis
Verbena Vonariensis at Calke Abbey

In Praise of Gardening

It is National Gardening Week here in the Uk and though these are unusual times Tim Hewitt from Forest Flora argues don't throw in the towel but pick up the trowel!

I never garden with headphones. You need to hear the crunch of gravel, soil on spade, the blackbird in the bush.

You need to focus on what is in front of you. You must think and plan and order; lose yourself until something jolts you back into the world and you say, “Really? Is that the time?” It is an immersive experience.

Gardening is something for your mind, your body and your soul. The physical aches and pains and injuries are righteous ones. The process of bringing seeds to life and then maturity is an ordinary magic which never pales. Of finding out where those plants grow best and planting them there and seeing them respond. Of discovering they have been planted too close together and need more room. Of mourning their loss to slugs and starting again!

Vintage gardening tools
Vintage gardening tools

There is something very deep in gardening. Since we first cut down The Wild Wood and started grazing the land. Yes, there is the imperative to feed ourselves, but with that comes all sorts of hedgerow and meadow-flower beauty. Gardening is an attempt to tilt nature’s brutal competition in favour of intense beauty. To distil it. We try to impose a sense of order and rightness on the land. To explore combinations of shape, texture, form and, yes, colour. We create and manage habitat. We arrange it to suit and please ourselves and others. And yet, these efforts are puny and temporary, constantly in flux. Ultimately, they are doomed to failure, but they amount to an experience worth having anyway.

So, for those who have discovered recently that we are a nation of gardeners, this is the week to redouble your efforts. To get out and have a go. Find out what that weed is (its usually Alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens, and you need to dig its tap root out). Search up plants which are happy in dry shade (for my money, Euphorbia robbiae takes some beating). Start a compost heap (but don’t forget to water and turn it), Plant a pot of seed or scatter them direct (the purple opium Poppy, Lauren’s Grape, is great in full sun).

Those of you looking for an immersive experience which forces you to forget whatever else is going on in your life, you can’t do better than garden. If you are a toe dipper on the shore, come on in, the water is lovely.

Tim Hewitt
Mark Cummings
Mark Cummings