Living in a house built (I think) in about the 1930s, I’m blessed with a lot of garden. Modern build in the UK tends to include very little in the way of private green space by comparison. I live on the side of a hill, on heavy clay soil, and my garden is a jungle. This is just going to be a rambley, reflective piece about my relationship with the land I live on, and how that informs my gardening.
When I moved here, the garden was rather bare, aside from some old fruit trees in the hedge. I’d never had my own garden before. I experimented with flowers. The slugs ate them. I tried growing vegetables. They didn’t much like the heavy clay, or the quantities of stones in it. And then the slugs ate them. I fancied a herb garden. Mostly, the grass choked them despite my efforts, and then… but we do have a hedgehog who regularly eats the slugs, so that’s ok. Over the space of some years I got to know the land, the soil, and what it was willing to do. Eventually, I stopped trying to impose my own ideas, and started relating more to the place.
These days I grow fruit. I have gooseberries, currants, tay, blackberry and raspberry growing to good effect. Occasionally I get strawberries, when I am faster than the slugs. I also have a fig (which does not yet fruit) a cherry (the blackbirds eat those) a hazel (I beat the squirrels to last year’s handful of nuts!) a walnut (not nutting yet) and a mulberry (produced one mulberry). I’m growing a small orchard. I’ve also started growing willow, with a view to being able to harvest and use it for projects. This land used to be wood. What it’s happiest growing, is trees.
One of the good things about fruit is, you don’t have to put in much work. If, for some reason, you can’t harvest it, the birds will come in and feed, so that works well. The fruit bushes, trees and long grass provide a lot of homes for insects, so I’ve always got wild birds outside the window come in to feed on them.
I gave up trying to grow exotic plants – partly because the slugs ate them, and partly because I’d rather have natives. Exotic escapees getting from gardens into wild places are an endless problem, and I’ve decided I’d rather not be part of that. I have cowslips and primroses blooming at the moment, I get gorgeous blossom on the fruit trees, honeysuckle, lovely colours in the autumn. I don’t dead head anything, I like the old seed heads, the natural decay, and it makes bug homes through the winter, and provides bird food.
Compared to glossy magazine style gardening, my garden is a mess. I don’t spend vast amounts of time working on it, either. But it does give me a great deal of joy, and it’s absolutely brimming with life.