Wednesday 5 September 2012
This is a Diary entry from 2008 but people still ask me what I am learning at Mount Stewart so I am putting it in again.
Wednesday 16 July 2008
Friends often ask me what I have learned about gardening since I started volunteering at Mount Stewart. There are obvious things like names of plants and planting, when and how to prune, propagation, taking cuttings, when to plant different bulbs, staking correctly, the spacing of different plants and endless tips for general gardening. There are other, not so obvious, things that will always stay in my mind.
Firstly, be brave. If you don’t like a tree, shrub or plant in your garden, take it out. Never mind how established it is or how healthy it looks or how much you paid for it, don’t spend the next few years looking at it. Either give it away or recycle it. I found this quite difficult at first but now? … Out with it, easy peasy.
Be strong. This one is for women. If you want to dig out something with big heavy roots, don’t think you need a strong man to do it. Just get all your implements, mattock, hatchet, loppers, saw, fork, spade, knife and anything else you have about your person. Work away at it and it will eventually come out, it may take a day and a lot of sweat but the satisfaction is worth it.
Be imaginative. If you have a small space it doesn’t mean that you have to use small plants. In a small bed big, bold plants with strong colours will have a lot more impact than small ones. This is really embedded in my mind and if I pass a small garden with small plants I have to stop myself knocking on the door and saying, ‘Don’t you realise…..?’
Have courage. It can be a great thing to completely clear a bed that has been the same for years and start afresh with new, different plants. I haven’t needed to do this as naturally my beds are perfect but I would always keep it in mind.
Have fun. Don’t agonise over design. It is your garden and you can do whatever you like, you don’t have to stick to rules or explain to anyone why you did something so amazingly peculiar with those strange colours. It would be very dull if all gardens followed the same trends.
Take notice. Through taking photographs for the diary every week I have found myself looking at each individual flower and seeing colours that I had never noticed before. Absolutely wonderful.
So thank you, lovely Mount Stewart gardeners, for teaching me all this and lots more. And there you were thinking I wasn’t listening to a word you said.