The garden is gradually maturing and developing its own character as the borders age and years pass by. Microclimates, ecosystems and food chains are forming and there’s a feeling of it all being fundamentally “alive” and not just a curated set of carefully arranged plants, constant and static. The cultivated garden feels like a cohesive system, the borders may be separated but they all work together as a whole. It’s simultaneously diverse, dynamic, bewildering, harmonious, chaotic and wonderful.
It’s a haven for plants, insects, pollinators, birds and it’s also a haven for me.
You see, due to various reasons, I don’t have the most robust mental health. I can be unbalanced by stress, negativity and anxiety. The garden somehow protects me from this when I am in it. It projects a powerful mental shield against whatever my mind may be wrestling with internally. Like a paradise dome stretching from hedge to hedge with the formidable wall of tall pine trees at the back, it’s a clearly-defined zone of protection. The care the garden needs focusses my attention, every flower is a distraction, every leaf calms, every plant soothes, every fruit excites. There is no office stress in the garden, no politics, no religion, no conflict. None of that is allowed to enter. The spectre of depression cannot penetrate the barrier created by the combined garden biosphere. It’s almost magic yet it’s just a collection of plants.
It doesn’t always go according to plan however as the restoration work the garden still needs can feel overwhelming and chinks appear when plants fail through predation, disease or the elements but its rare and can be overcome. The garden needs me to maintain it and keep all the plants growing well together and in turn, I need it to maintain my mental health, to ease the the internal conflicts that can leave me drained and in despair.
Part of the reason for the exhausting schedule of work in the last couple of years to create a garden from the blank canvas we moved to was precisely due to realising just how much of a haven a garden can be and how much I needed it. It was particularly acute when we left the previous garden (which I had spent five years creating) and effectively went “back to square one” with the new garden. I felt particularly vulnerable and suffered for it until the first borders were planted. Things have been getting better ever since.
I will continue restoring this large garden, one border at a time and in turn, the garden will restore me, one piece at a time.