Is it possible to have a slow burning Epiphany? Probably not but I do feel that over the last couple of months I have slowly but surely come to a moment of clarity and realisation about exactly who I am, what I want and where I want to go as a gardener.
As any one who reads this blog will know I have been stumbling around for probably a couple of years now. I haven’t liked my garden let alone loved it, I have lost confidence and direction. I have in previous posts assigned this confusion to the death of my sister and it is certainly true to say that as a knee jerk reaction I had an overwhelming sense that I needed to seize the day and embrace opportunities. However, I now believe that this confusion was setting in before that terrible week in October 2009 and I attribute it to garden blogging.
Writing a blog is a wonderful way of engaging with other people who are like-minded but maybe not so wonderful if you are lacking in confidence or easily influenced, as I am or was. Through blogging I have met lots of interesting, knowledgeable and creative people and I have felt a desire to be part of the gang instead of hanging around on the outskirts as I did in the school playground. When I started writing a blog 4 years ago I had gardened for some years but I was only really starting to become hooked and was going through a phase of compulsive plant purchasing and shoe-horn planting.
For the first couple of years I thrived on being part of the garden blogging community but in recent years I have let myself be swayed by the opinion of others and this has led me to lose my way and become dis-satisfied. I have worried about the design or lack of design in my garden. There has been a strong argument in some areas that a small palette of plants is better than a mishmash and I have found myself seeing my planting as a disjointed collection of unrelated plants. I have been entranced by pictures of exotic planting and have tried to emulate this but failed dismally and become disheartened. I could go on.
However, amongst this confusion and lack of confidence I have started to find myself again, though that does sound a little clichéd. I suppose it started in May when I was lucky enough to help for a couple of days plant a Chelsea showgarden, something which came about because of my blogging and twitter contacts. It was a fantastic experience that I wouldn’t have missed but I found it hard to accept the waste of so many plants and the idea that plants were just a commodity, a thing to create something else. This didn’t feel right.
Something else clicked when I made an unplanned visit to a garden in August. For some reason this garden inspired me with how to change the design of my garden and how to move it forward to something that will work better. None of the showgardens I had seen at four shows have had this impact on me. I think there is something to be said for being in a garden as opposed to standing outside it looking in.
Despite the ideas the garden sparked I have still been vexed with the design of my garden. I felt that I was just failing somehow but last night the penny dropped and the epiphany moment finally happened. I’M A PLANTSMAN not a garden designer etc. I love plants, I am fascinated by how they grow, where they come from, who discovered them, how to propagate them and I have Roy Lancaster to thank. I spent the evening listening to him talk at the local horticultural club. He spoke with passion and humour about his many plant hunting trips and showed us photos of amazing Mahonias with red flowers, Abelias with long dangling flowers, huge Geraniums and many more exciting plants. All had stories attached to them. I was transfixed throughout the talk.
I love plants and whilst I want my garden to look great but I do not see why I can’t collect plants and have a fabulous garden. There are many well known plantsmen/women who have stunning and renowned gardens: Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto to start with. I think what I have realised as a result of wandering in the horticultural wilderness is that there are many avenues to take and you have to find what is right for you. I have learnt that it is possible to plant a collection of plants and for it still to look great if you use an artistic eye when planting them; that I like hardy plants not exotic tender ones which are difficult for me to overwinter; that I get the most satisfaction from propagating or growing from a seed a new plant and seeing it grow and thrive.
So this is who I am. I will no longer let myself be vexed with whether my garden is well designed, about keeping up with the latest trends. I will be true to myself, have confidence in my abilities and beliefs and try to trust my instincts more. I want to learn more about plants and plant hunters, I would love one day to be involved in the RHS plant trails and I aspire to go on a plant hunting expedition. I will also carry on reading garden blogs but a wider cross-section instead of the small number I have read this year after all whilst reading gardening blogs as lead to confusion it has also opened many doors and broaden my mind.
PS: there is no photo on this post at present as I have written it at work in my lunch break and I cant upload images for reason that are beyond me!!