Home

Gardening in the wild – the inspiration

2 Comments

We’ve opened our garden to the public for a number of years now.  In 2017 we were invited to open with other gardens for the Gardens in the Wild Festival – a Herefordshire initiative – and as we’re only 3 miles as the crow flies from the border between Monmouthshire and Herefordshire (although we are in fact in Powys) it seemed to be a good idea.  After all ‘gardening in the wild’ is what we do here…

Gardens in the Wild Festival

Good.  But this prompted me to start thinking about what exactly is it I mean by ‘gardening in the wild’.  Well, we all know what gardening is, don’t we?

what is ‘gardening’?

A definition I like goes like this ‘traditional gardening is a means by which we attempt to control plants and get them to do what we want’. This comes from a very inspiring book called “Cultivating Chaos’ which, unsurprisingly takes a bit of a different view on the matter.

Cultivating Chaos – a different take on gardening

So, if instead of trying to hard to control plants we allow them to do a bit of their own thing, is that ‘wild gardening’?  So is ‘mind-your-own- business’ romping away in my greenhouse un-tended by the hand of the gardener ‘wild gardening’?

‘mind-your-own-business’ going ‘wild’

Or do the plants have to be ‘wild’?  Helpfully some people, cleverer than me, have also been thinking about this question of the Wild Garden.  William Robinson, in his book on the subject in 1870, came up with a definition ‘placing plants of other countries as hardy as our hardiest wildflowers in places where they will flourish without further care or cost’  Sounds helpful.  But, of course, in those uncomplicated times they also dug up wildflowers to plant in their gardens and give to friends, and spread seeds from the windows of trains…

William Robinson’ had a few things to say on the subject

I rather like some of the things that Noel Kingsbury has to say in his introduction to the afore-mentioned ‘Cultivating Chaos’.  He talks of  ’embracing plants that self-seed is part of becoming a manager of nature rather than a controller’.  ‘Gardening is now much more about an accepting of spontaneity. Dynamic change and chance play important roles in this process, as do the choice of plants and the willingness to work with forces that are outside our control’.

Also in this book (which, you may already have gathered, I find rather inspiring) I came across a gardener by the name of Henk Gerritsen.  So I bought his book “Essay on Gardening’.

Henk Gerritsen’s ‘Essay on gardening’ – recommended reading

(Dear reader – please note how cleverly I photographed the cover of hawkweed and knapweed growing in a grassy sward against my own grassy sward including hawkweed and knapweed – under the washing line in fact!)

Piet Ouldolf wrote the foreword. Here’s a quote from that:

(Henk’s) way of gardening certainly contributed to my abandoning those strict rules about what was and wasn’t allowed.  During our discussions…about what an ideal garden should look like, matters were raised that were rarely discussed in books.  We talked about spontaneity (that word again), about which plants would fit into our image of an ideal garden:  they had to be plants that visitors would think had simply walked out of nature but which also knew how to behave… dead plants weren’t ugly either… we thought that seeds and seedheads were fantastic and they were beneficial to the birds and other inhabitants of the garden.  After all these years, our idea of a perfect garden is exactly the opposite of the traditional idea, the maintenance of which required pulling our all the stops.’

This book is ‘an appeal to think about our relationship with nature and about how we give our gardens something of this nature’.

So, my inspiration about Wild Gardening comes from books?  Well, no, not really.  The greatest inspiration is what nature herself gets up to without a hand of a gardener in sight. Hera are a few examples from the garden here at Nant-y-bedd.

Rose bay willow herb and pendulous rush in the woodyard

Swathes of beautiful and pollinator-friendly ground elder in the Potager

 

Ground elder again with oriental poppies and alliums in the cottage garden

 

Buttercup, Herb Robert and speedwell on the riverbank

And this is how Nature did foxgloves in the forest near our garden in 2016

Nature doing it’s thing big time

So the foxglove example is a useful one to remind us to look at Nature for our inspiration.  Foxgloves germinate with ease in my garden in bare soil in the onion beds once the onions have been harvested. It’s a great way to create a stock bed of healthy plants to transplant elsewhere in the garden.  Some are allowed to stay along with linaria, parsnip and ox-eye daisies much to the concern of some ‘tidy’ garden visitors.  We still managed to win the Challenge Cup for “most productive Vegetable Garden’ at the Llanthony Show last year.

Foxgloves et al in the onion beds

And then, of course, there are wild ‘styles’ of gardening which don’t necessarily feature wild or native plants, not to mention the benefits to wildlife of this approach…

If you are interested enough to want to find out more about how we do ‘Wild Gardening’ here at Nant-y-bedd Garden you might consider booking onto the workshop I’m running here on the 24th September 2018.

 

(House and) Garden

2 Comments

The publicity machine rolls on!  Last week saw the publication of a wonderful article in the (very upmarket) House and Garden magazine.

As with many of these things the wait was long, but very well worth it.

The photos were taken by the wonderfully talented Britt Willoughby Dyer  over two years ago, and so a few things have changed in the interim.

Words are by Abergavenny’s own Sarah Price.  Sarah has visited Nant-y-Bedd on a number of occasions and has mentioned us in one of her articles for Gardens Illustrated, so we were thrilled when she was asked to provide the text for Britt’s photos.

To have two such skilled (and lovely) people write about us makes the garden maintenance so worthwhile.  Thanks also to the team at House and Garden.

Nip out and get a copy before they sell-out, but in the meantime here’s a proof copy to peruse.

GI Sue

1 Comment

Don’t worry, Sue hasn’t left the garden and signed up with the US Army!  GI is apparently shorthand for the magazine Gardens Illustrated as used by “those in the know”.

GI is probably Sue’s favourite mag in the whole world and this month she’s got her name in it!

Sarah Price, who visited the garden in May is currently writing a series of articles for GI and the October version features Wild Flowers in Gardens.   One of photographer Britt Willoughby Dyer‘s recent pics of the garden has been used by Sarah to illustrate how to “bring a spontaneous sparkle to a vegetable plot”, In this case our onion beds.

If I had had my way these “weeds, that are shading my onions” would have been pulled up long before Britt or Sarah saw them!

Here’s a copy of the first page of the article.

Gardens Illustrated October 2015

Gardens Illustrated October 2015

PS:  I’ve just had my arm firmly twisted to acknowledge that despite the “weeds” we had a most tremendous crop of onions (see earlier posting) and ………. Sue was right (there, I’ve said it!)

Who is writing in the Visitors Book?

2 Comments

Every time we open, and we’re on our 7th year for the NGS, we ask visitors to write a few thoughts in our visitors book.  Invariably they are lovely comments, uplifting after all the hard work that goes into making the garden look presentable for all the hundreds of people who give up their time and money to come here.

We’ve published quite a few of the comments here in the past and hopefully they have encouraged readers to visit, who might otherwise have not.

But at our last Open Day in May, one comment stood out, not just because of the sentiments, but because the writer is a highly respected garden designer and journalist.

The writer was Sarah Price, who has a regular feature in what Sue considers to be the “bible” of gardening mags – Gardens Illustrated – and also who was responsible for the design of the wild flower meadow at the 2012 London Olympic Park.   Yes, Sarah had come to visit Nant y Bedd!!

Sarah wrote “Absolutely enchanting garden! Of the place and so imaginative. Can’t wait to visit again. Inspiring!! Sarah”

One could say that Sue was rather pleased, to put it mildly.

Come along to our next Open Garden on July 19th or give us a call on 01873 890219 to arrange a visit.