High Society, Low Life and the Menagerie

Ask any gardener designer to describe a garden and you will get the predictable mix of hard and soft landscaping, colour palettes and texture, formal and informal garden rooms and a selection of the latest meaningless buzz words from world of gardening glitterati – tactile, surrealist, matrix, herboretum …………….!

As I am feeling particularly waspish I am not going to allow any discussion of the intellectual and moral merits of practice over voyeurism or whether “the artist’s garden, opens up a space between an individual and social ecology of values, implicit in our desire to plan, design, tend, cultivate and control the natural world”.

Find yourself a real gardener with grimy hands, broken finger nails and a face as weathered as an ancient mariner, ask the same question and you will get a slow smile. The answer, when it eventually arrives, may not be articulate but it will be passionate and will talk about plants rather than philosophical concepts and sophistry.

A garden is a reflection of the character and dreams of the gardener, but nature is the Head Gardener. Climate, geography and geology are the final arbiters which will always have the last word, dictating how our grand designs will be transformed by cold reality. Whilst we may not always get the garden of our heart’s desire and be foolish enough to yearn for the mirages of perfection that adorn the glossy magazines, it is worth taking a little time to enjoy nature’s gifts and the fruits of our labour.
However manipulated and manicured, a garden is a living, breathing ecosystem – a complex, dynamic community of plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms. Upset this delicate balance and the system will fail, try to understand and nurture it and the glory of the garden will be yours, even if it is not exactly what you wanted.

In my garden the animal community provides as much pleasure as the plants and I can spend more time watching their behaviour and speculating over their identities than getting on with the serious business of weeding. I should be disciplined and use their scientific names, but the lure and the fascination of the vernacular is always too strong. Where else could you find admirals flirting with vipers and rubbing shoulders with chimney sweeps, sextons, soldiers and rustics or for that matter painted ladies, drinkers and high flyers consorting with Quakers? More predictable is the menagerie of peacocks, swifts, magpies, foxes, pugs and pusses; not to mention the garden tigers, but sharks on the sow thistles! We’ve even had a visit from an emperor, will a small phoenix be next?

If you are curious you can find photographs of the other moths mentioned in this post on the Outer Hebrides Lepidoptera website.

16 thoughts on “High Society, Low Life and the Menagerie

  1. Wonderful view on how to make the very best garden. Your garden visitors are fascinating and I love how you group them,

    • A very personal view, but it is what I like and I think my garden community of bugs and mini-beasties like it too.

  2. Absolutely right! I’d rather spend time checking out bugs than weeding. Great photographs!

    • Watching the bugs is a perfect excuse for lying on the grass watching the world go by. I can’t think of a better way to spend a sunny afternoon – pity its raining here!

  3. I’ve seen some immaculately kept gardens, but while they might be perfectly designed and maintained, they’re like miniature deserts with few insects and birds visiting. My garden may be straying a little too far towards the other extreme (…complete neglect), but it’s full of bumblebees, newts, birds and butterflies – and I’m much happier with that.

    • Your garden sounds perfect, alive and thriving.

  4. I’m with you on the wildlife watching and the reasons why a garden should be a garden and not some buzz word created trophy. I agree that good gardeners are passionate and plant for the love of plants not for fashion. Great post 🙂

  5. I have been a bit late in dipping into other blogs recently as it is a little warm to be sitting at the laptop for any length of time – sorry. I am so glad that after falling off your chair with laughter you were able to roll around your garden and photograph all these lovely little beasties – you obviously mesmerise them with your waspish gaze so they sit still long enough to get these photographs, assuming you have progressed enough with with your fancy lens skills to have been the photographer, that is! Great text as well – as you have said, the focus of your blog has changed and it is great that we can be ourselves when we write. Keep it up!

    • I had to rescue you from the spam, I do hope you are alright. I’ve been awol again – flat on my back and unable to perch on my kneeling stool (not heat exhaustion, too much fizzy pop or fits of the giggles, just a clumsy gardener). No sympathy please I don’t deserve it – too much dreaming and not enough concentration on the job in hand even if it’s just watching where I put my very large feet.
      I’m still too much of an amateur of produce the quality of photos conjured by Himself, I just do the flowers, at least they don’t move!

      • I hope you are not going to make a habit of this falling over business and are looking after your old bones to prevent breakages – I am trying not to be sympathetic but I am really sorry as it will have stopped you from getting out and about and doing jobs in hand. S’pose you could still do the dreamimg bit though…. 😉

        • Clumsy child, clumsy adult but too robust to break bones. It is the stumbles that tend to do the damage but I’ll bounce back irrepressible as ever and continue dreaming and not looking where I’m going. It is amazing what you can do even when restricted to the horizontal and the vertical!

          • Were you born on a Wednesday, like me? 😉

          • Thursday and still traveling!

  6. Great post, thanks for pointing me to it. I try my best to encourage butterflies, but get so few. I am very excited as this morning I say a Peacock butterfly, but it flew over the fence before I could get a photo! Interesting to hear your views after I had watched a gardening programme yesterday; pre-recorded. In it Alan Titmarsh and team did up a back garden for a lady with a brain tumour. She didn’t know how long she had to live and wanted a garden for her family to remember her by. The garden looked amazing – it is incredible what you can do by moving a few things around and a bit of hard landscaping. However I always wonder what these gardens will look like in a few months time – especially if there is no-one with the ability or the desire to look after it. In this case it was the rock garden on the roof of the shed that really got me going. The lady immediately asked how they would look after it. Alan said all it would need would be a bit of water. REALLY???
    I’m glad I got that off my chest – I have been fuming about it all morning. Think I have the topic for my next post…….

    • I try not to use my blog as a soap box, but sometimes it just happens. I’m sure you will find that most real gardeners get equally hot under the collar about the instant garden syndrome. Look forward to reading your post.

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