Gardening in harmony with nature
All too often when reading gardening magazines or newspaper articles it feels as if the endpoint is to dominate the world around us, to dominate nature into submission. Sometimes it even feels as if a lot of people are at war with the world around us, wanting to decide what insects gets to live and which don't. Bees are good, wasps are the enemy. Beetles are ok, but not on the plants. Don't even get me started on aphids - eradicate them now the doctrine goes! Butterflies are lovely, but their larvae are seen as pests. We live in a world of "splitting" where things are either good or bad, with few grey zones. Yet when looking at nature this is not how it works as all living beings regardless of if they are plants, animals, insects or humans are interdependent on each other. Without the pesky aphids our much loved Ladybugs would not have food for their larvae to grow into the charming adult buggs that they are.
Instead of seeing gardening as a contact sport where the one with the strongest chemicals or most active weeding habits win, we could see it as a practice of mindfulness. For one, we could use it to become mindful of nature and aware of ecology. By observing the creatures in our gardens we could see the complex co-dependent relationships that exist and hopefully come to understand that striving for balance is better than trying to eradicate certain species. Weeds are only weeds when they dominate and take center stage, but a few natives here and there in the borders do no harm. A lawn doesn't need to be perfect to be beautiful, much in the same way we don't need to be Instagram beautiful to be perfect. Allowing little faults to show is in fact much more endearing than striving for an unattainable perfection. By relaxing our standards and beliefs, we can become more present and attuned to the reality we live in. Mindfulness is not about a perfect yoga pose, but about being happy in what is.
Another aspect of giving room for nature to come into our gardens is that we can find unexpected beauty and joy in doing so. Of course we hate the rabbits when they eat our carefully planted shrubs or decimate newly planted trees in winter, but finding little hare babies tucked in under a pergola in a designated wild area of the garden is an absolutely breathtaking experience. Tall grass and messy borders may not be to everyones taste, but considering that a beaver-themed rewinding garden won this years Chelsea Flower Show perhaps tastes and garden fashion are changing. Creeping buttercups and common toadflax (Linnaria vulgaris) may be unwelcome in the border and drive me mad when they invade en masse, but they are wonderful little bright spots in small quantities. Going for the "wild garden shabby chick look" saves me a lot of time and blends the cultivated plants with its natural surroundings.
Sometimes in gardens just as in life perhaps the best thing to do is to do nothing and see what happens. Obviously there are areas that I want to micro manage, like the kitchen garden where human interference with things such as weeding and watering are necessary in order to produce a good crop, but in other areas I let go and find that nature much like life already has a plan. I think that in life a person can rarely have everything, or at least not at once. Perhaps a person has an excellent career, great love life and beautiful family, but few friends. Or then great friends, excellent work-life balance but bad health. It is very few who are so lucky that they have it all, and for many this is hard to accept and live with. In gardening I am constantly reminded that imperfections and a lack of control is part of life, and that as some parts of the garden are thriving others will be lacking. Gardening in harmony with nature helps me be in harmony with life.