Your News: Creating a natural garden

Stuart Bullen
Stuart Bullen

Dappled sunlight comes through the trees. Klimt gold and ruby red leaves backlit like some Tiffany lamp fluttering in the cool autumn air.

The woods around Bourne have become an ethereal Art Noveau wonderland. Things hidden up until then are revealed; Bryony and dead Honeysuckle entwined over oaks that seem to have medieval gargoyle faces carved onto them. The flash of russet of a fox’s tail in the undergrowth; the guttural belches of the stags in the air.

We all get a feeling of wellbeing and a sense of rejuvenation when we experience scenes such as these. Once upon a time people used to speak of communing with nature. That’s almost no longer possible for the majority. These days we speak of nature deficiency for us and our children or of “reconnecting” with nature. Its seems almost impossible if you take into account how hectic our lifestyles are today. Most of us do, however, have one space in which we can, if not replicate entirely, slow down and capture some of the spirit of nature: our gardens.

We would all like to make our gardens more natural and wildlife friendly, but we seem to have unrealistic expectations and misconceptions.

For example some feel that if they haven’t got badgers or foxes in their gardens they have failed. Nothing is further from the truth! Right now in your patch are literally hundreds of species of life from the birds, plants, myriads of insects through to microscopic fungi and nematodes in your soil. Yes you can do things to improve the variety but it’s not a loss. There is no such thing as a dead garden. Even a perfectly manicured bowling green mown lawn will provide invertebrates for passing birds to feed on.

Others tend to think of natural gardens as involving an untidy backyard jungle of dandelions and other “nasties” – renaming weeds as “wildflowers” attracting clouds of midges and other undesirables. This is another myth that can be easily debunked.

An untidy garden actually decreases the diversity of wildlife as stronger plants dominate and limit the number of species attracted. Natural gardening involves weeding unwanted plants to fit in with a neat well directed design. Insect numbers are controlled with predators and good husbandry not with dangerous, expensive and quite frankly unnecessary chemicals derived from chemical weaponry – eg Sarin, which was used recently in Syria was originally created as an insecticide in Germany in the late 1930s.

Over the years natural gardening has evolved into a new exciting cutting edge art form that’s moving into the mainstream. You only need look at designers such as Piet Oudolf and other Chelsea winners these days for confirmation that gardening organically and naturally is never the preserve of the eccentric. It’s no longer necessary to grow nettles in the corner, though they do wonders for compost heaps. From Matrix planting to Drift planting, ornamental perennials to cottage wildflowers natural gardening is inclusive for all and all abilities. Gardening organically is no longer thought the preserve of the Middle Class or Hippies. It’s all about making your garden self-sustaining; recycling waste into something useful for you to use. It involves you to be more imaginative and creative and have a hand on approach to the life of your garden which in turn leads to a more satisfying sense of achievement and wellbeing.

For decades we have been influenced by the big chemical industries and the gardening media that relies on that advertising budget. It can be a challenge to our preconceptions and even our own tastes as to what gardening should be. But gardening naturally gives us a way out this conditioning and allows to reclaim our gardens from expensive environmental wastage and big industry.

Watching the ebb and flow of nature from the comfort of your deckchair or kitchen window does indeed reconnect you to the seasons and the natural world.

It also allows you to fall in love with your garden over again.