You know I have a bit of a book obsession, and thank to Father’s Day I have some great new books in my collection. These books follow up in theme from our Laneway Garden featured at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show this year, and my shift towards a more sustainable long-term approach to garden design and management. More and more I think we are seeking gardens that are easier to maintain over time, not harder, and gardens that find their inspiration in nature. But that doesn’t mean the whole process is easy – landscape design and gardening never is! A hint lies in the title of the books – Cultivating Chaos – How to Enrich Landscapes with Self-seeding Plants by Jonas Reif, Christian Kress and Jurgen Becker, and Natural Garden Style – Gardening Inspired by Nature by Noel Kingsbury.
The opening page of Cultivating Chaos sums up the process rather nicely really .. “Managing a garden that relies on self seeding plants differs greatly from the traditional approach to gardening. It considers planning and maintenance as interlinked and works with nature rather than against it. Dynamic change and chance play important roles in this process, as do the choice of plants and willingness to work with forces that are outside our control.”
There are two main points here – part of having a successful self-seeding garden is in the planning and plant choice. Even with this type of garden it can help to have a professional on board to get started. The second part though is less about professional advice and more about you. It’s about letting go of control and realising a lot will still happen by chance. Self seeding natural style gardens can’t be controlled and moulded to your will. But on the other hand if we leave a garden completely to the forces of nature the results will nearly always be a tangled mess. It will be a compromise.
Noel Kingsbury, writes well on this and notes you have to find the mid-point between romance and realism “No garden is ever really natural. We have to be honest. The nature we want in our garden is s is a refined and tidied up version, preferably one that is pretty and keeps us interested for as much of the year as possible”. He details the process in his book with helpful and practical advice. He also talks about the science behind the process of preparing for a natural garden.
I’m still trying to find the balance myself. Some colleagues and I have developed Medo Seeds a sustainable alternative to lawn verges and open spaces. I’ve also trialled some different plantings in my own lane way and front nature strips, but have to admit my own backyard is still more structured. Who knows with the help from these books I think more and more I will be embracing my wild side!
Because in the end garden design is personal, it’s all about you, what inspires you, what style is ‘you’. So tell us about you. Do you like the natural style of a self seeding garden, some chaos and wilderness, or is it all about clean lines and cool concrete for you?