The garden/life balance

In my 20's and 30's I craved a larger garden - more space, more plants, more wildlife. Just more really!   Now I have the garden I craved, it must be at least 5 times the size of my old town garden and guess what, I now reflect back to my smaller space with rose tinted spectacles and pine what I have lost. 

 As a working mother, garden designer and business manager for my husband's business my free time is very limited. So now my dream garden runs me ragged - the hedging, the pruning, the mowing and the wholesale weeding. Don't get me wrong I love my garden, but I think the wildlife have taken over at times (well most of the time)  - the moles, the voles, the mice, the rats, the hornets, the bugs, the slugs and the ticks!  

The moral of this tale, must be finding a balance between the garden we dream off and the amount of time we actually have to maintain it in good order. After nearly 10 years in my dreamed off paradise and I  truly appreciate that there must be a balance between the garden we desire and the amount of energy we can put into keeping it beautiful. Kids love the wildness of the garden and don't care that it's a bit overgrown. I also have a bit of help every other week with the hedging and heavier jobs which makes a huge difference.

 Like everything in life today, we are sold an image of how life or our gardens should be - one of airbrushed perfection - yet the reality, is that perfection often takes hours and hours of effort or expense. The right garden/life balance needs to balance at the tipping point of joy - you can enjoy your outdoor space without being a slave to it. 


The garden/life balance - getting it right ......


Watering the garden


I put in lots of new plants this spring imagining a typically damp British summer - now with the unrelenting heat I am a slave to the hosepipe. Reusing water from the bath by adding a switch valve to the down pipe has worked well but not provided the volume of water I need. We also bought a pump for our paddling pool so that we could accurately direct this precious water to the base of plants that needed it. Still not enough water though for what I needed. I moved my pots and containers to the shade - this helped. I haven't watered the grass except by mistake watering some nearby shrub - the grass will revive but some of my poor shrubs I'm not so sure about. A rhododendron hit the wall early on - there's not much left of this shrub now. But other established large shrubs are struggling too now - especially the rhododendron family, the ceanothus, the hydrangeas, and even the hebe parvoflora which is usually drought tolerant.

I have even reduced the size of some leggy shrubs in an attempt to ease their neediness - this has worked to an extent. Targeting water to those most in need in rotation has worked too.

However, I find myself thinking - did I put in the wrong plants? Based on our usual weather pattern, we have quite a heavy rainfall living in the New Forest - normally plants die from water logging in our heavy clay soil. Plants were selected to love the damp and the clay - not the heat and the drought. So it's not poor planting just unusual weather! If there is a hose pipe ban next step for me is pumping the water from our old well.

I can't be the only gardener praying for rain. Please let it be soon as our beloved forest is struggling too and with several local forest fires the rain cannot come soon enough for me. 

Free gifts ...


Self set flowers in the garden are like free gifts - my garden here in the New Forest has been beset with self set Aquilegia vulgaris (grannies bonnets) in a mixture of dark pastel colours - free gifts from Mother Nature. Now they are all setting seed and I am planning to spread the joy, collecting the seed heads, leaving them to dry in the greenhouse and popping them in envelopes for customers and friends. 

Free gifts and free plants makes us happy giving the garden a naturalistic feel. Other marvellous self set plants here are Buddleia, Erigeron and Valerian. Spread the joy of your garden - share seeds and small plants with family and friends  - say it with flowers - free flowers! 


Aquilegia seed heads - waiting for the sun to dry them out ready for seed collection.....

It's hot

Don't forget to water  - especially new plants, the greenhouse and anything in a pot. 


If your garden is looking wild and unkempt one of the simplest things to do is mow the lawn regularly. It has an instant impact on how your garden looks, the smell is fabulous and you will feel great to achieve such an instant result for such relatively little effort. 


If you have a large garden and are short of time, why not leave areas further from the house unmown this provides superb food and shelter for wildlife and if you're lucky you will find wildflowers like orchids in your unmown turf. (Once flowering has finished leave the wildflowers to set and drop seed then the whole area could be strimmed and mown.)