Some days it feels as if you could be out in the garden all day and not achieve a single thing (as per my previous post). Viewing the garden as a whole can be a bit overwhelming sometimes, there are days when it all feels too much, there are days when you just can’t be bothered, but I’ve learnt not to punish myself for these days. While it’s true that I always do feel better for doing something out there, and I have never yet been so disheartened by the whole thing that I’ve given up completely, I’m happy to allow myself days off from it, or, as a compromise, set myself a small project instead of trying to fix the whole world.
I have found myself recently quite obsessed with small detail, and creating a small ‘garden within a garden’, a little corner set aside for when the rest of it is just too much. It can be very satisfying creating a small world, just for yourself. I love alpine plants but my garden isn’t sunny enough, so I have taken the idea of putting small plants into barely noticeable corners and niches and have discovered a fondness for sempervivums. There are a lot of examples of this sort of detail in gardening, this is from a wall at RHS Harlow Carr:
and it does look fairly achievable…
Sempervivums are available pretty much anywhere now, you can even buy “hens and chicks” on Amazon, which give you several plants in one. They grow well in shade and are very hardy – the birds dig mine up, looking for ants, but I’ve found uprooted baby plants which have obviously been out of the soil for some time and managed to replant them in the tiniest bit of soil, and they’ve still survived. But I do think it’s important to have a theme, if you are going to create these detail areas – mine, at the moment, tends towards kitchen items.
the above picture is part of a further contentious area of the garden, the “soakaway that doesn’t”. I shall write more about that later.
So yes, you need a theme. I find Pinterest a brilliant source of ideas, and the theme of recycling disused items is a very common one, but there is also a large collection of more ambitious projects. Fairy Gardens are not my thing, to be honest, though you do have to admire the imagination that goes into these – maybe it’s something I’d like to do when I retire. It’s important not to overdo a theme though – a small collection of broken pots and galvanised buckets can look fabulous in one corner of the garden, but if they take over it will just look like an overgrown junk yard. Besides, an important part of the appeal of these details for me is that visitors will come across them accidentally, or will only notice them if they look closely enough. It’s a secret garden thing, I think.
So I would encourage anyone to try this, to think small and just focus on one area, use your imagination and beautify an overlooked corner in your garden. It’s a mindfulness type thing. There is a lot of inspiration out there. I have an old gardening book, “The complete book of gardening” (1954) and I love browsing through this on a rainy afternoon. I looked at the section on building rockeries and garden features, and found this paragraph about building a Moraine garden. “(the) ideal and natural position for the Moraine would be at the lower end of a valley between two rocky spurs, the gorge gradually expanding into a flat bed of scree with occasional boulders strewn over it”. I don’t know that I will ever own a garden large enough to be able to casually strew boulders over it, or to have it’s own valley and scree bed, but we live in hope. Maybe there’s a way of doing this in miniature too?