DIVERSITY: #gnarlygardens

Gardens should be ugly beautiful; filled with life and movement.

They should thrive off their imperfections and enhance the lives of birds, bugs, bees and yourself.

When beginning my studies, I thought that gardens had to be pristine, that there shouldn’t be a weed in sight and that this was the ‘ideal’; any less than this is seen as ‘neglect’. Plants should be pruned, trained, trimmed, shaped and (mostly) annual. Growing up in a village where front gardens are regularly spied on by nosey neighbours, I understand the desire to impress and to divert any criticism; to stick to the social norm and stereotype of a ‘well kept’ garden.

However, this feels wrong, so wrong. Since finishing my diploma, I’ve started to educated myself (and preach, madly) about permaculture and wildlife in gardens. How important this is and how understated it has become. I’ve realised that the perfection everybody craves is damaging. A garden should be filled with your favourite mix of perennials, biannual and annuals. It should have exciting structure such as fruit trees or flowering shrubs. There should be bird, bat and badger boxes tucked away in discreet corners. Vegetables and fruit should coexist with plants in the borders. I dislike seeing plastic/harsh materials in the garden for plant support; willow and dogwood can be grown and used to create softer, natural structure.

Attitudes are changing and more areas of gardens are becoming ‘wild’. People are exploring self-sufficiency and using the space they have. Leaving an untamed nest of brambles and long grass is fantastic if you have the space.. think of the blackberries if nothing else!

Use the hashtag #gnarlygardens to share images of impressive uncultivated areas left for wildlife! Find me on Twitter @eogardening.

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