I VALUE MY GARDEN

I am in awe of beautiful gardens with carefully landscaped paths leading through various ‘rooms’, some of which may have a water feature or a focus on flowers in a particular palette of colours. In these water-wise days there are also gardens featuring aloes, cacti and a wide variety of succulents. I read about gardeners bringing in truckloads of soil, or even hiring earth-moving equipment to reshape the landscape; of bringing in – or removing – large rocks; and of installing elaborate irrigation systems. I see diagrams of gardening plans to be followed throughout the year. Gardens like these featured in magazines always look beautiful.  In my garden a mixture of indigenous flower seeds – such as these African daisies and cosmos – scattered in a bed bring me joy.

While most visitors enthuse over my ‘wild’ garden, others openly declare it to be ‘messy’ and ‘overgrown’. Some express an itch to cut down the trees – many of which we planted decades ago – and to prune the hedges. This is understandable for my garden tends to be ‘wildly creative’ rather than ordered into shape. For example, I let the canary creeper grow and flower where it pleases before trimming it back so that the weight of it won’t break other plants.

There are many practical reasons for this: the garden is too large for me to manage in an orderly fashion on my own; we are – and have several times before – experiencing a prolonged drought and so there is no water with which to maintain lush flower beds and a prolifically productive vegetable garden; and, until I retired a few years ago, I was seldom home for long enough to mow the lawn, never mind prune, weed, dig and plant. This is a section of what I call the ‘secret garden’, where nature takes it course.

I have always valued my garden for what it is: a place for solitude and relaxation if I need it, and a haven for birds – such as the Village Weaver below – as well as insects and any other creatures that require a home within our suburb. Over the years I have recorded 107 different species of birds seen either in or from our garden; have come across several snakes, a variety of butterflies, spiders and moths; observed bats, beetles, praying mantids, lizards and geckos; there have been swarms of bees, several frogs and toads, mole rats, a mongoose and even a couple of tortoises. We once even found a terrapin in our swimming pool – and still don’t know how it got there.

It is easy to tell why I value my garden for its tranquillity and its diversity. Never has this been truer than since the arrival of COVID-19 and the hard lock-down that came in its wake. For over three decades I have watched the garden evolve from a gravel and cactus ‘desert’ to a forest of trees and shrubs; from a hot and shade less place to a haven of shade and dappled sunlight’; from a habitat birds would rather fly over to one where many have chosen to nest and to seek food for their offspring.

Thanks to all of these visitors, I value my garden for the bird song that begins before sunrise to the haunting sounds of the Fiery-necked Nightjars late at night. I have enjoyed seeing an Olive Thrush pulling up a long earthworm from a crack in the old kitchen steps; watching a Fork-tailed Drongo swooping down to catch a caterpillar unearthed while I am weeding; observing a flock of Cape White-eyes splashing about in the bird bath; and have thrilled to the light touch of a Common Fiscal as it perches on my hand or foot to receive a tiny offering of food.

I garden for peace. I garden for the therapeutic quality of my hands connecting with the soil. I garden for the excitement of watching bright yellow flowers taking on the form of a butternut or a gem squash; for the joy of transplanting seedlings that have sprouted in the compost; and for the pleasure of finding self-seeded flowers or herbs growing in a place of their own choosing.

My sentiments about gardening echo those of the essayist and poet, Joseph Addison (1672-1719), who has been quoted as saying I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs.

35 thoughts on “I VALUE MY GARDEN

  1. Your garden sounds delightful to me. If the wildlife likes it I certainly would. I am planting more and more natives in my garden as they become available. I used to take pictures of all the insects, birds, snakes etc that have come through the garden. It is such fun to find a new species in the garden.

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    • Certainly under the current drought conditions we have found that to plant indigenous makes a lot of sense as they adapt more easily to these dry conditions and bounce back after even a little rain. It is always fun finding a new plant, bird or other creature in the garden for the first time 🙂

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  2. Lovely piece Anne. Thank you for sharing your garden.
    I view the garden as art, the style and expression unique to the gardener. I also garden for the promise it offers each spring, the birds and bees and butterflies to arrive, and the picture it paints with each flower’s time to shine.

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    • Thank you, Henry. Of course you get a spectacular – and definite – spring and autumn in the northern hemisphere. You also know clearly that you are experiencing either summer or winter 🙂 The changes are more subtle here. For example, today’s temperature was over thirty degrees Celsius and tonight will drop to only nineteen degrees – hardly what one would expect of autumn. Gardens do hold a promise and can be full of surprises – that is what makes it fun.

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  3. ‘Messy’ gardens are biodiverse, and that is something that is hard to put a value on… the costs of the Anthropogenic damage to this planet is beyond belief. Messy is GOOD!

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    • You are right, Eliza. I am pleased to think that biodiversity thrives in my garden which has several ‘wild’ spots as well as a patch where I grow pretty flowers when there is water to spare. I never use artificial fertilizers or weed killers and so we all ‘get along’ fine 🙂

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  4. Your garden will win every prize in my book, Anne. Those “immaculate” gardens featured in the glossy magazines are often quite sterile due to the immense interference required in the natural order to keep them that way and at best they’re the horticultural equivalent of the models featured in the fashion press.

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    • I think you and Jackie would enjoy exploring it: breakfast in the morning sunshine while the birds come down to feed; sun-downers in the late afternoon when the setting sun highlights the different hues of green leaves on the trees; or sitting outside on a moonlit night listening to the nightjars – and swatting mosquitoes 🙂

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  5. I don’t strive for perfection either….and having grown up on a farm, a few weeds don’t bother me. 107 birds is impressive….I don’t even think we have anywhere near that number of species here….but I can’t even get a picture of a bluejay!

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    • Perhaps with me having grown up on a farm too, I am more tolerant of weeds and of plants coming up where they have chosen to be. When you do manage to photograph a bluejay I would love to see it, Joni 🙂

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      • Anne – check out this blog for some lovely photos of bluejays and cardinals and a woodpecker. My blogger friend Linda who lives in Michigan known for it’s extensive parks, posts about the birds and squirrels and other critters she sees on her daily walks. Here’s the link to her post on Winter Birds. The bird count at the end sounds interesting too. I do see the odd bluejay but am never quick enough to get a picture and seldom see a red cardinal as they like cover and I don’t have many trees or bushes in my backyard. I had to cut them all down ten years ago due to ash borer disease. https://lindaschaubblog.net/2021/02/22/winter-brrrds/

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