Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Gardening Edumacation

I finished watching Landscape Man. The rest of the episodes were of rich couples who splashed out on Chelsea flower gardens, one who lived on a clifftop seaside in Guernsey and planted grasses, the good life wannabes in Wales, and another who made a sunken garden and pond in the old tennis court in Sussex.

Is gardening a middle-class past time? I am pondering this question after watching all these BBC programs. Have money, will garden. Don't have money...your plans are sunk. In Regency times in England it was the fashion to adorn a stately home with a garden to show off your manor. Then the Victorians pioneered the crazy plant hunting expeditions which inadvertently discovered Australia in the process, thanks to Joseph Banks. He anchored in Sydney, calling it 'Botany Bay' and marvelled at all the new exciting plants that would wow everyone back in England. He wasn't so enamoured with the people already living there, I gathered, and didn't take them home to show everyone.

I learn of Edwardian cases and Disneylandesque creations such as the Chinese Garden in Biddulph Grange, made to look exactly like a willow plate. There's also an art to 'bedding out' which requires hundreds and thousands of plants. Behind the scenes, gardeners slaved away nursing these bedding plants each season for their rich and powerful employers keen to show off their garden beds to everyone else. Six gardeners would spend all day scything the lawn before lawnmowers were invented and numerous more would live in dark, dank potting houses pottering away for spring displays.

My garden isn't nearly so middle class. I have not decided what it is yet. I don't employ labourers and I really am not into snob value of the Brits who have elevated it into an art. I have not spent money on anything this winter to my surprise, although I think it is time to move my columnar spiked apple to a pot inside my patio since my fuschia turned up her toes, so may need more potting mix, and more snail pellets since my renga renga lilies are looking a bit sad (still haven't flowered) but I'm quite pleased that one of my kowhais has flowered and magnolia has her first bud.

Who knows, one day it may turn up in the pages of NZ Gardener magazine. My cousin visited from NYC and remarked that our backyard still looked the same, but then he noticed my herbs round the side of the house and asked what they were. I am thinking maybe I should make a dramatic change to the backyard instead of mincing away at the borders. Landscape Man has inspired me to consider hiring a big digger and carving out a pond, maybe with a bridge to the other side. I will then grow rain lilies and iris, and possibly invite some ducks.