“Life is itself a school, and nature always a fresh study.”

It’s pretty tough in the garden sometimes even though Spring’s colour and fragrance have replaced the cold and frosty days of winter. We have experienced extreme weather this Spring with long days of high winds, heat and dust storms that have created havoc. Many plants are struggling from wind damage and the ground, despite my watering, is still dry, and the blooms are ruined before they can open fully. Not only is the weather disappointing, but the ravage from thrips and other insects has really tested my resolve. It is not very pleasant to be outside with the air thick with dust and thousands of tiny flies that evidently have blown down in the wind from North Queensland. Thank goodness for the fly veil.

Due to the current weather patterns and gardening not going according to one’s plan, the only way forward is to be more philosophical about it. Do what I can and hope everything survives.

Philosophy and gardens are not necessarily the two words one would think went hand-in-hand. Though, on deeper insight philosophy could be seen as an integral aspect of gardening and gardens. At the end of the day you find yourself, exhausted, aching, sweaty, and hot from gardening, and nature has thwarted your efforts, there is only one question that continues to arise. Why am I doing this?

What is compelling me to head out each day and do this over and over again? Let’s face it; not all tasks in the garden are a joy. When you look back to famous gardens of the 17th and 18th-Century, gardening was done by workers or labourers and not necessarily by the owners of those sumptuous gardens. It wasn’t until the Victorian era that gardening became a pastime. Only the wealthy had time to spend nurturing the ferns and aspidistra in the grand dark Victorian homes and parkland style gardens outside.

Since that time, I wonder, is it a human need to commune with nature, to take control of a small part of the earth, that makes millions of people spend their spare time gardening today? Is it pride in their own environment or simply an opportunity to create beauty in the surroundings and build a sense of commitment to nature? Are gardens living art?

The philosophical questions that pop up in one’s mind are endless, and there is ample time whilst gardening to ponder these questions.

Garden and landscape design is an art insofar as it creates for people experiences that uplift their spirits, expand their vision, and invigorate their lives. It is a science insofar as it develops precise knowledge of its processes and materials.

Derek Clifford, A History of Garden Design,

We garden to express the values and beliefs of our culture and our garden trends have moved through the decades to reveal so much about our lives, and what as a community we believe is important. Today more than ever our values are seeking an integration of us as part of the natural ecosystems of nature rather than as separate.

When I read gardening stories and landscaping books I’ve noted that gardeners, and landscapers talk about their own ‘garden philosophy’. This had me thinking that apart from initially wanting to grow a few seedlings, and roses I didn’t really know what my philosophy on gardening was until now. Gardening can be considered an art and be an opportunity to bring both aesthetic qualities together with functionality. The design elements of form and function. With this in mind, I’ve come to the conclusion that my garden philosophy is to-

  • Work with what I have, be it an urban balcony, a small back yard or a rural property. No matter where one lives, all areas have limitations and restrictions, so use what you have.
  • Have a garden that uplifts the spirits yet is practical and easy to move around and does not interfere with the functioning of, in my case, a rural property.
  • Appreciate the moments in the garden and ‘stop and smell the roses’ as the saying goes. Make areas to enjoy the garden.
  • To have a go and experiment with various techniques, plant types and ideas.
  • Grow the plants that like to be here and do well easily.
  • To have a garden that is abundant and full. I loathe large areas of dirt visible between plants and love the garden to be eclectic and untamed.
  • To grow what I love, roses, lavender, rosemary, salvias, and nepeta mixed with other herbs and unique plants-edibles, roses, and herbs are mixed together.
  • To consider the height and colours before planting and attempt to design interesting colour schemes for different areas.
  • To have a long term vision of how the garden can be expanded.
  • Try not to despair if the weather, pests or setbacks delay my garden progress.
  • To walk around every day and see up close how the plants are doing.
  • To draw up a plan of the garden to know exactly where particular species are planted. Research what those plants need.
  • To have various plant species, colours, sizes, textures, and mingle plants together with pots.
  • Focus on balancing nature with beneficial plants for bees and birds
  • To be able to pick roses whenever I like to give away or simply enjoy inside the home.

“Good gardeners are always young in spirit, for their minds are fixed on spring when others feel only the bitter sting of winter.”

Mary Fanton Roberts

We only have to look at the local nursery or Bunnings store on the weekend to see that I am not alone in loving gardening. Gardens matter to us, and there are many reasons to engage in this wonderful pastime. Pride in one’s own part of paradise, growing one’s own vegetables, and being able to share the produce with others builds community values—a sense of oneness with nature and an appreciation of the four seasons. Last but not least, being within your own garden, either working or relaxing, is a refuge from the world. The garden should be a place of peace and contentment no matter the garden’s size. It is yours: a haven and your own part of paradise. Gardeners are the Kings and Queens of the garden domain, unlike everywhere else in life, so get out there and enjoy.

Di Baker Image

Soon it will rain, and things will look up in the garden, and this week is just a temporary setback. Survival mode for now, and wait for the expansion and flourishing of blooms for another day.

David Cooper in his book The Philosophy Of Gardens concludes his thesis by saying

gardening or cultivation [is] a practice which, engaged in with an appropriate sensibility … embodies more saliently than any other practice the truth of the relation between human beings, their world, and the ‘ground’ from which the ‘gift’ of this world comes. (pp. 160-61)

David E. Cooper, A Philosophy of Gardens, Oxford University Press, 2006,

Happy Gardening

All images in this post are courtesy of Unsplash unless otherwise cited

Title quote

“Life is itself a school, and Nature always a fresh study.” by

Hugh Miller, 1802-1856, Scottish geologist, palaeontologist, and folklorist from https://oldhousegardens.com/QuotationsArchives

Content by Di Baker 2019 All Rights Reserved

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *