Time to relax…relatively speaking

by Handy Mag

by Tricia Harris from Helmsley Walled Garden

Well it’s July and everything is in the ground and there is a brief lull when you can put your feet up and enjoy the fruits of your labours. In truth, this is an important thing to do and not just for the benefits for taking some time to relax (something none of us do enough).

If we don’t stop to look at what we have planted, walking slowly round looking from all angles, then we miss the opportunity to see what has worked and what hasn’t.

I’m no designer but I often have happy accidents. Last year, I was so fed up with one bed that I lifted everything, rearranged and replanted then adding new plants where I created some gaps. This year, I find I have had a happy accident by planting Geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw’ next to and slightly behind Tellima grandiflora. The bright red daisy-like flowers of ‘Mrs Bradshaw’ combine charmingly with the fringed cups of the Tellima.

So much of gardening is about getting interesting combinations and visiting other gardens is a great way to gather ideas. It’s one of the things visitors to the garden often say: that although the garden is five acres, the way it is divided into smaller spaces gives an intimate feel even in the bigger spaces, rather than being overawed, visitors feel they can take planting ideas to use at home. Given that most of us do not have a 100m long double herbaceous border down the centre of our gardens, I feel that’s no mean feat.

My big design tip, if you can call it that is to put your personality into your garden. Don’t feel you have to follow someone else’s plan but put the plants in you want and express yourself. So if you want a feast of grasses, do that. If you have a very shady spot, fill it with ferns and trilliums and erythroniums and other woodland plants.

A garden should be a place where you want to spend time. So don’t make it a fussy space, needing lots of care if you don’t have time to give it the attention it needs. Having to garden will make it a chore and when it stops being fun, then it is just another thing on the to do list which, for me pretty much kills it.

If you don’t have a lot of time, make it a wild space. Don’t worry about mowing. Instead let the wildflowers and grasses grow. We don’t mow at home from May till August. Instead I let my grass expert (otherwise known as my husband) to mow paths to the oil tank, the bottom of the garden and the washing line. We’ve discovered a growing patch of red clover which is thrilling as it is the food source of several of our native bees notably the common carder bee, honeybee and the red-tailed bumblebee.

If the last few years has shown us anything, it’s the importance of spending time outdoors enjoying nature. Take pleasure in your garden this summer, take time to sit back, get those shoulders down and breathe.

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