I’ve often wondered why I enjoy visiting gardens so much. I love the smell of a garden on a warm summer’s day and the surprise juxtaposition of plants or elements. I enjoy unravelling the history of the place and seeing if I can capture its spirit. But gardens give me so much more. Wandering around a garden gives me a calm which I rarely find elsewhere. Over the last few years, there’s been lots in the press about mindfulness – on how focusing our minds on what’s in front of us can help us to engage with the world around us. And gardens are where I find this peace. Eastern cultures can also teach us a lot. In Japan for example, gardens are created to reflect the essence of nature and to provide space to explore the meaning of life while the Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates life’s transience.
Gardens also play a vital part in improving our environment. Biodiversity is an essential part of our life on earth – from the oxygen we breathe, to providing food, water and medicine. Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter commissioned a ‘comprehensive biodiversity audit…[to] give us the knowledge that was key to managing our land in an intelligent and effective way.’ Fergus goes on, ‘the results were astonishing. As expected the wider estate with its ancient woodlands, pastures and meadows, and ponds were extremely rich. But surprisingly the richest part of all was the ornamental garden.’ Biodiversity wasn’t something that the team at Great Dixter had set out to achieve – it was a by-product of the way they garden. No herbicides or pesticides have been used at Great Dixter for over ten years while they allow the edges to become blurred – linking the garden to the car park and the woodland beyond – as well as the ‘natural plant succession with one layer taking over from another providing a prolonged period of pollen and nectar from the winter through to autumn.’
Please let me know if there’s a beautiful and interesting garden near you that I haven’t included.
I’m currently researching talks for next year so send me an email if you would like to find out more.