The message of last week’s Chelsea Flower Show was clear – we need to go back to nature in our gardens to reduce air pollution and to save our disappearing wildlife. I have done this for many years now, and my garden cradles the house in flowering plants. And wildlife is everywhere; under the stones, inside the bark of wood stumps in the Stumpery, flying, singing and even sunbathing on the trees, some live in the pond, while others are busy pollinating everything in sight. Happy Days!
The pink roses above the door are David Austen, Aloha, an old climbing rose that flowers from May to the first frost. The white one is a rambler rose named aptly Rampant Rector. This generous rambler flowers twice.
I started my wildlife garden by being organic. To give the plants plenty of legroom, the beds were raised to approximately a metre height from the ground. A few layers of bricks topped up with a high wood-roll were then filled with topsoil and compost. It was fortunate for me that a local farmer changed the use of his field and had tonnes of soil for sale. I bought the lot. Next came the hard workers, the worms. To welcome them, I sprinkled raw oats over the beds, watered them, and covered with compost. Darwin wrote that worms are most important to the ecosystem because they keep soil healthy. This time Happy Days for worms.
Another climber from Harkness (above) named Seagull covers an arch high off the ground. I used two deadwood trunks topped up with a strong trellis to give the roses a large platform to rest on, and they just love it. Close by I planted a giant hydrangea Annabelle, the huge globes of creamy white complement Seagull perfectly.
The garden is surrounded by very tall trees which I have planted at the very back. They work as protection from bad weather and keep the house warmer. The garden is filled with hundreds of evergreen, spring flowering shrubs, but the main colour combination is provided by roses, hydrangeas, and clematis.
Hydrangeas come in brilliant colours and shades; from white, pink and red to vivid blues and even purple. They are very generous plants as they insist on flowering for several months. The heads expertly dried provide excellent natural decoration in the house. Here are just a few of the colours:
Blue hydrangeas bring serenity and calm to the garden. They reflect the blue sky and I have fringed one pathway with them. In another place in the garden, there is a sculpture of ‘Girl in Blue Hydrangeas’, shown below.
The flower that has been a symbol of love, romance and beauty is the rose. Over centuries, poets extolled the beauty and intoxicating perfume of roses. They were used as symbols of the two sides in the Wars of the Roses in Tudor England. Red for the House of Lancaster and a white rose for the House of York. Young girls of fair complexion are referred to as ‘English Roses’. Roses have featured in many books and paintings. The American humourist H.L. Mencken wrote that: ‘An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it makes better soup.’ To celebrate the end of World War II, there was a creamy pink Hybrid Tea rose created in 1945, called Peace. This rose is now the most popular in the world. I have also planted Peace, a climber, by the side of my house, by the kitchen door. It is now nudging the roof in a glorious display that lasts from May until the first frost. Below is the world’s favourite rose, Peace.
There are many roses in my garden, I will show some here, although it is difficult for me to impose the necessary limitation of numbers.
As I wanted to maximise greenery during the drab months of winter, I opted for evergreen clematis to cover the very tall and prominent arches in an avalanche of ornate greenery. From January until May it produces a profusion of greatly scented bell-shaped flowers in cream colour. In places less prominent, there are many other clematises in various bright colours. Here is a small selection:
Every garden should have many flowers at ground level because their dazzling colours lift our spirits, and are equally appreciated by bees and other insects. Here is a selection:
The whole garden is designed to take our eyes from ground level to the very top of the fruit trees. Roses, hydrangeas and even rhododendrons are happy to grow into the branches of several apple trees. There are also pear, cherry and plum trees to provide masses of moorish fruit. In between, there are flowering shrubs like Weigela, Skimmia Japonica, Ferris, and rhododendrons, camellia, magnolia, among many others.
Skimmia Japonica is a wonderfully scented large bush, that is evergreen, naturally round without any need for pruning, and an early spring flowering plant. The bumblebees adore the nectar, and my visitors are stopped in their tracks before being able to knock on the door as they have to follow their noses that lead them to this intoxicating vision in white by the front door.
As there are hundreds or more bushes, shrubs and trees in my garden, I have to pay homage here to my wildlife little helpers: the frogs that are patrolling the garden at night, the bees, bumblebees, ladybirds and masses of other insects, including ants, that are diligently pollinating my garden, fruit trees and fruit bushes in particular. Ants perform a surreal spectacle of climbing to the very top of apple trees to milk aphids. To see a steady column of ants going up and down a tree trunk is incredible, as it could be compared to mountain climbers conquering Mount Everest several times a day. Small birds clean any pests from my roses and fruit trees. And butterflies, apart from pollinating, add beauty and magic to any sunlit day. I can only watch in wonder and say a big Thank You.
The fruit trees and fruit shrubs in my garden become prominent in the spring when their spectacular white blooms delight not only the hungry bees but anyone visiting as they are a sign that winter is over. Over the summer the fruits grow bigger and bigger, and come autumn, it is Harvest time. The kitchen is full of buckets and bowls full of fragrant, honey-tasting fruit. The feasting can begin.
May I just add here a wise and timeless Roman saying, well known to all gardeners:
And may the Force be with us, as gardening may just save the Earth.