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.