Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Life on the edge

Something that continues to fascinate me about gardens is the relationship that exists between the gardener and the natural world. We might be allowed to think we’ve got the upper hand for a short while, but this is just an illusion. Where the gardener seeks to impose their will – the tidily clipped hedges, fruit trees trained into espaliers and fans, or the neatly manicured expanse of baize green lawn – little more than a momentary distraction provides the opportunity for Mother Nature to reassert her dominance. And it seems to me that this relationship is nowhere more evident than around the edges of things.

Easily overlooked, I’ve come to appreciate that edges are key in providing definition and coherence in the garden. They help our brains to make sense of what the eyes are taking in. So while by nature I’m not an obsessively tidy person, it’s struck me this week that just about every garden I look at seems to be in need of a good haircut. Hardly surprising in a week of minor monsoons and mini heatwaves that the plants are growing vigorously away, but who has time not only to keep on top of the weeding, make sure the containers are watered, and mow the lawn twice a week, but also to ensure crisp edges on everything? As a working gardener, I know that good edging is the finishing touch that completes all my hard work in maintaining a beautiful garden. But as a householder I am aware that, as long as nothing is wildly out of control, if you look after the edges, you can for a time get away with a little less attention to what’s going on between them.

Noone wants to be a slave to their garden, so why not take a little time to neaten up the perimeter of the lawn, and then reduce the frequency of mowing for a few weeks? Similarly, take advantage of the RSPB’s advice against cutting hedges between March and August by leaving the noisy, cumbersome hedge trimmers in the shed, and clip off the straggly tops with some hand shears.

It’s not a long-term strategy — inevitably at some point, you will need to catch up — but anything that promises to steal a little time to enjoy our gardens has to be worth a try. I’ll be getting the shears out this evening after work. But only for a few minutes.