Mindfulness

Last week felt depressing, everything dry and dusty and dead-looking. I got into one of those moods where I couldn’t see any sign of things changing; somehow I settled into the feeling that the witch had taken over Narnia and we’d be left in an eternal winter. Of course it’s never true and in the last few days I’ve started noticing the signs of spring coming.

Flowers opening on the jasmine. Oh the scent!

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Strawberry blossom, just when I was thinking that they ought to be getting a move on.

This lovely Spanish lavender I honestly thought I’d killed.

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I think we spend a lot of time not seeing the world around us yet being unhappy with it. We get so wrapped up in our lives that we stop noticing how marvelous the world is, what a completely fascinating, improbably thing life is. One of the great things about a garden is that it brings us back to the essence of life. Every shrub, flower, tree that grows from a tiny seed is a miracle. It is all insanely fantastical and yet it happens, again and again, and we should honour that by taking notice.

Mindfulness is a practice rooted in Buddhist philosophy. There is research ongoing into the positive effects of mindfulness on health and well being and it is defined by the Mindfulness Institute of South Africa as

“[referring] to awareness of present experience with acceptance, which arises when we pay attention, on purpose, without judgment, to what is occurring in the present moment.”

When visiting a garden you wander through in this state of mindfulness, perhaps this is why gardens are being used more and more widely for recuperation and rehabilitation programmes, but often in our own gardens we are so focused on the jobs to be done we forget to visit it. How crazy to put so much effort into our gardens and not enjoy them, like baking a cake and letting it sit there uneaten. Is this just me?

I used to start my mornings with a walk around the garden, a habit I am determined to get back into. When my kittens were little they would follow me; added to my own daily discoveries were their discoveries of the world around them. I remember the first time they stepped on wet grass and saw a dry leaf scuttling past.

Can there be an easier or more pleasant way to improve your health than with a daily walk around your garden, not for the purpose of getting anywhere or doing anything but just to be in it at that moment? Even better, it’s free (or at least you’ve already paid for it).

Transplanting Roses – in Perspective

Not my roses... but we can dream.
Not my roses… but we can dream.

Yesterday Davis and I moved the eight surviving roses from the rose garden to the bed we dug out in the cutting garden. It turned out to be filled with rubble so that was a bigger job than expected. We back filled the beds with the sand, sieving it through braai grill to avoid the smaller pieces of rubble and added loads of compost.  I delayed the transplanting for a week because I was waiting for my mychorrizial fungi to arrive. I felt we were very prepared for the job.

ippLots of minor stresses in the process but by mid day I was basking in the satisfaction of a job well done. Until this morning when I went out to turn the compost and it struck me that the bed doesn’t get much sun. With a sinking heart I realised that in winter the sun never quite reaches the bottom.
Even worse, my favourite (it’s okay to have favourite plants) was right at that end. I let it all percolate as  turned the compost heaps and decided quick action was better than no actions and quickly moved the two roses at the bottom to a higher position. They still only get about an hour of sun in winter but by summer they should get their full six hours. To be honest I don’t know if they’ll survive all this excitement. (On the plus side I didn’t plant them in the bed next door which gets no sun at all in winter.)

I should have planned better of course but I’m learning to live with my mistakes. After all it’s just a garden. I’m also learning to be ruthless in fixing things that niggle at me, even if it’s my fault they’re wrong. A garden is not a place to pay penance daily for your sins. Only time will tell if these roses will live and bloom and if they don’t time will take care of that too. As e. e. cummings wrote, ‘in time’s a noble mercy of proportion/ with generosities beyond believing’. So has the garden mercy and generosity and puts into perspective our petty grudges. A garden adapts, forgives and moves on; a lesson we do well to learn.

N.B. Although the garden as a whole is forgiving, individual plants are not necessarily so.

The Rose Garden

2010 before putting in the rose garden
2010 before putting in the rose garden

About four years ago, after an overly inspiring Rose Tour which they sadly (maybe fortunately) don’t run any more, I ripped up a part of my driveway and put in the rose garden. Roses are expensive though so although I did VERY detailed plans I never managed to finish it. The soil is dreadful, despite a huge amount of compost going, and, though some of the roses struggled valiantly, some of them have died. I haven’t given up on my rose garden, I’m just making it a long term plan. For now I intend to transplant all the roses that were in there into the cutting garden. Madness I know, the soil there is not much better but we have dug a massive trench and will fill it almost entirely with compost. Then I’m going to add more compost to the rose garden and plant it with annuals for the next few years.

The Design PlanippI’m using heritage ‘Old Spice’ mixed sweet peas on teepees in the centre and surrounding them with clarkia. At the back are the existing ‘Great North’, a stunning white spire rose with a lovely scent. I want to put in a storage tank to collect the water that comes from the neighbour’s down pipe and through that wall but I have to make it into an attractive feature. Behind that is a viburnum hedge on top of the retaining wall. All the beds are edged in low hedges of a plant whose name I know well but currently escapes me.

The Plan of Action

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As you can see, current reality differs somewhat.

It’s a bit unfair as this is mid demolition but this is what the rose garden currently looks like. I had a bit of a pond in the middle surrounded by bricks which I’ve dismantled. The Hybrid Teas which are to be moved have been pruned back hard in anticipation.

Jobs to be done

  • remove roses
  • add compost
  • prune spire roses
  • clip existing hedge
  • plant rest of hedge
  • plant annual seeds
  • remove ivy from back wall
  • plant viburnum hedge
  • build water tank

Lessons from the Garden (that might save the world)

ippYesterday I had a clumsy day. I forgot things, walked into a wheelbarrow (massive bruising) and knocked over a pot. I was reminded of how much a garden can teach you, other than to watch where you’re going. The pot had artichoke seeds in that I was beginning to lose hope for. I planted them at the beginning of May. I’ve been dutifully carrying them out into the sun in the morning and bringing them in at night and although the sweet peas I planted at the same time are about 5 cm high the artichokes haven’t even peaked up. I was beginning to think they’d probably expired or it was too cold, so when I saw the pot on it’s side, a bit of soil out and a beautiful little germinating plant lying there, it took me a second before I quickly put it back and doused it in water. A couple of days later I might have stopped bothering to look after it.

If you want a child to learn patience, teach them to garden. There is only so much you can do to hurry nature up and it’s usually not worth it, you end up with weak, sickly plants or over-crowded beds, so we have to wait, patiently. Some things come quickly, others take more time. It is frustrating when there is nothing you can do and your daily nurturing elicits no response, just sullen soil staring back at you, but waiting is a skill and plants are good teachers.

Hand in hand with patience is being able to see the future. Obviously I don’t mean in a clairvoyant way but in being able to imagine and plan and work towards it.

If you want a child to learn to invest, teach them to garden. I am a product of a instant gratification culture, if I can’t get/do something now I’ve probably forgotten it by the time I can, so this has been a hard lesson which I’m still learning. There are things I know I didn’t do because it seemed like the rewards were too far away (like plant asparagus) but time slips by so fast and it will slip by anyway.

So many people can’t see the future, they can’t see how their behaviour today affects tomorrow and they can’t believe that changing it could change the future. There is a saying that to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow so perhaps the world will be saved in the end not by heroes but by gardeners.