I began the gardening year last Thursday. The weather was glorious, just calling to me to come out, so I did; began with some clearing, all the old stuff from last autumn and filled the “courgette pot” – the compost bin that I’ll grow the courgettes in this summer – as it had sunk nicely over the winter from its first fill. Then I began weeding; that’s going to keep me occupied for a week or three.
Saturday, I gave the grass its first haircut of the year – gorgeous smell! – and although it looks a bit rough it’s coming up again nicely now (Sunday). The grass got added to the “courgette pot”, it will work well with the leaves and old, dead plants from the clear-up, speed things along and get it all going nice and hot. Getting your browns and greens to the right proportions is important for good compost. Weeded a veg bed where the over-wintered spinach is coming along nicely for the spring, in fact is ready to start eating so I had some in my salad for my tea.
The garden much appreciated being worked. While I was working I was also asking the garden where it wants the wildflower meadow. I’ve been watching Sarah Raven’s 3-part programme on Bees, Butterlfies and Blooms (BBC2), excellent stuff; in the last one she showed various city plantings of the most gorgeous wildflowers; I was re-inspired to create one here; I’ve meant to for the past ten years but not got around to it (as I’m sure you know, Round Tooits are in very short supply!). Sarah didn’t properly specify where she got her seed mixes from so finding them took a bit of hunting but I’ve done it – if you’re interested go to Pictorial Meadow Seeds, soooooo much to choose from!
Well, I knew creating one was right and that the garden wanted me to but … where ???
The garden is now well established at twelve years old and there really isn’t any spare room, to make a meadow means converting an established bed; I want all the lawn to stay as lawn as it creates good “white space” and sets off the rest of the garden well, so can’t convert any part of that. So there I am, weeding away, and at the back of my mind is the question, “Where would you like this meadow, then?”
Last autumn I collected masses of poppy, phacelia and calendula seeds; in the flower beds I was clearing and weeding I intended to sow some of these … so I did. One bed was also crying out for some of the Cephalaria leucantha that had vastly overpopulated yet another bed so, before I strewed poppy seeds about, I went to collect a couple of plants from the said bed. Ha! the damned things were well stuck in so I had a good old job getting them out; this meant that I also had time to commune with the beds as well as the plants. “Me! Me! Me!” yelled the bed – silently inside my head. I got it, it’s definitely the right place and, to help matters along the bed I was in joined forces with its next door neighbour, the willow-tree bed, to say they wanted to join up and make a large meadow.
This is excellent! I half cleared that bed two years back of a load of yucca that a friend gave me yonks ago that I only just dared to get rid of and I never got any further with it. I dare say the bed wanted a bit of time to itself to feel into what it wanted, anyway it’s now decided so I shall clear both over the next week or so, get the soil as clean as I can and try reducing fertility as much as possible too – difficult in our biodynamic garden!
So … lots of things got decided. I was part of those decisions but by no means the instigator or controller of them. That’s very much how I work, all the time, as a shaman. The place, the garden, the individual beds and the plants in them all have their say, along with me, but I’m certainly not “in charge”. I’m the gardener, the guardian of the land. I have ideas, wants, desires, plans … all that stuff … but I ask the garden what it wants before I get carried away with my own ideas. The garden knows itself far, far better than I know it; twelve solid years of journeying and living with the place has taught me so much but … but … the main thing it has reaffirmed to me is “listen!”, ask and listen.
Asking and listening helped me … and helped the garden. The spirit of place here was very pleased. As I said, I’ve known the garden wanted a wildflower meadow for the past twelve years but been unable to get it together. Today, feeling the garden speak with me, sensing the threads pulling together, then getting the message so firmly about pulling the two beds together, was yet another affirmation of the way I work, as a part of the whole but not (repeat, not) the one in charge. I love it when this happens, when the garden talks to me.