Sofias Country Gardens
My farm is located deep in the countryside, surrounded by woods, fields and water, so it is quite obvious that I should use the surrounding nature as both a source of inspiration and as part of the gardens. I have actually always done so, even way back twenty years ago when I was living in the UK and had a large urban garden. There I didn't have much nature surrounding me, being in the middle of a town, but still I studied the English flora and fauna and let parts of the lawn run wild. I ordered seeds and plug plants with native flowers, and planted a hedge of native trees and shrubs along a fence. Often people see wildflowers as weeds, but they are in fact beautiful in a very discreet and gentle way. Wildflowers are often much daintier and more graceful than the cultivated varieties, which are bread to be showstoppers with exaggerated appearance. Most wildflowers are beautifully accompanied by grass, as the stems are much too thin for the plants to form a thick lump like cultivated perennials would do, so one of the nicest and easiest ways to incorporate them in the garden is to grow them in a small meadow.
In my gardens I let the outer borders of the garden become wild areas. The grass is allowed to grow tall all summer, and whatever wild flowers turn up are welcome to stay. I help the process along the way by spreading wildflower seeds each time a spot of bare earth is visible. This is often the case in early spring, before the grass has started to grow, and late summer when the grass has dried up. In august we cut the grass in the areas that used to be lawn and let it dry before raking it off and putting in the compost. This is because the soil under the old lawn is much more fertile than the soil in the surrounding areas, having been fed with grass clippings for many years. Wild grasses and flowers actually do better on meagre soil, because if the grasses are fed too much they take over and steal all the space from the flowers. The biggest benefit of having wildflower gardens is that regardless the weather they will do well. Even this year when we have had the most insane six week long heatwave they keep on putting on a show without any help from me, while the perennial borders are simply sulking in spite of my desperate efforts to water them.
When talking about wildflowers and weeds, I do have an affinity for such wildflowers as others would banish from their gardens and where there is space I let them roam free. My vegetable garden is surrounded by "weeds" and I resolutely keep it that way. These wildflowers tempt all the good guy insects into my vegetable patch, and this helps me garden organically without the use of chemicals. The only ones I have a problem with are the creeping thistles, as they are the bane of my life when they mix with my carrots and beetroots. Still, given the right place like amongst the Lilacs (Syring Vulgaris) just some yards away underneath the veranda, I do find even them both beautiful and necessary. Beautiful to look at, and necessary for the bio diversity of my gardens. I guess it is all a matter of perspective; looking at my gardens with the bio-diversity binoculars on I an really pleased at the sheer number of different native plants appearing around the edges whereas someone else may look at it from the point of view of a townie gardener and be horrified. I have always found a lot of pleasure in the simple and natural things, and having a wild and unruly side to my gardens pleases me a lot.