Garden Fun and Introspection

That calm was shattered by a million pieces of broken china. I’m nothing but predictable on trips away, and need the addition of excitement on the agenda.  

This week we spent a night in an off the grid eco-lodge further along the peninsular from us in the tiny settlement of Little River. Here I perused an old garden magazine in which was an article extolling the virtue of planting an urban garden with the single colour palette of green. This concept has always sounded boring to me. But I was in the middle of a monochrome New Zealand native forest and yet counted no less than thirteen shades of green, and countless different leaf shapes and textures from the spot I was standing in.

It wasn’t dull, quite to the contrary it felt incredibly peaceful and contemplative. 

This calm was shattered by a million pieces of broken china. I’m nothing but predictable on trips away, and need the addition of excitement on the agenda.  … by way of visits to other gardens. Over the hill from Little River is the quaint French influenced village of Akaroa. In a quiet valley of natural farmland and modest homes exists a most exuberant neighbour – the flamboyant garden of Josie Martin called The Giants House.

Arbitrary pathways are carved into the hillside with brightly coloured mosaic retaining walls and benches; eccentric sculptures appear randomly and hedges are fashioned into quizzical shapes.

This space demands attention, unlike a sedate forest. It playfully challenges the notion of formal garden design and requires your participation. The flowers (though carefully chosen) are mere props to the main characters of layout and structure. The morning’s performance was accompanied by delighted shrieks of kids “Come and see this” and “look over there”.

I returned home pondering both extreme experiences: 

From the forest I learned that without the distraction of competing colours it’s easier to notice detail. Henceforth I will consciously pay attention to leaf shape, how petals are arranged on a petiole, what characteristics differentiate one plant from its neighbours, how they grow in community etc. I also came away with a deeper respect for trees en mass (in gardens they invariably stand individually). The book ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben with exquisite images and plenty of educational text is opening up a wooded underworld of fascination to me.

From The Giants House I’m inspired to inject some fun into my garden. Though I’m attempting to maximise edible plant production in a small area using permaculture principles, there’s surely space for some frivolous elements? The two vegetarian cook books I have also recently purchased are to help me make the most of the vegetables we are beginning to harvest.

Gardening is so much more than digging a hole and plopping a plant in.

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