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As one of my New Year challenges, I have enrolled in a short taster course at Birmingham Buddhist Centre (Park Road, Moseley) to learn about meditation. I have learned about the concept of ‘mindfulness’ which is somewhat of a ‘buzz word’ in secular self-development as well as a core element in Buddhist teachings. Essentially it is being more conscious and ‘present’ to all your daily activities however simple or menial. The benefits to mental health and wellbeing of such behaviour are well documented now.
Gardening, like almost all daily activities, can be approached in a ‘mindful’ way and yet so many of us tend to participate with our eyes shut. For instance, It struck me that as a gardening professional, I can tend to get on to site and immediately focus on individual tasks, blinkered to the big picture, driven by the goal of getting the job done to keep my client happy, and in a most cost effective way. The trouble is that the very nature of focus can block out the peripheral vision. Becoming aware and conscious when in our garden is a joy. It connects us more directly to the earth we aim to interact with in an almost primeval way. Our gardens are a vibrant living environment, we step out there and become part of that environment, but we are guests. When we leave there the garden continues to morph, to grow and to ‘be’. I do understand the argument that time is money and being mindful doesn’t get the task done any quicker, but here lies the crux of the discussion. Are our tasks in the garden, or when we walk the dog, go shopping, put out our shiny new wheelie bins on rubbish day, are they indeed chores or a human experience to enjoy in whatever way we can and then become a potential source for pleasure? It is all in the mind isn’t it? It is all down to perception right? Being mindful can be a pleasure; it opens our hearts to a wider and more visceral human experience. Kids have a natural instinct to be mindful, something we can grow out of as adults as the pressure of life bears down on us. Try to revert back to the enthusiastic child, open your ears and eyes because it’s good for the soul. Stop for moment to watch and engage Mr Robin as he hops around the recently turned soil sometimes as close as a spade away or turning a rockery stone to see hibernating frogs and woodlice. When you find those little red brandling worms in you compost, they relentlessly turn leaves and clippings into usable garden compost for us. That compost that is feels soft and sensual and smells good enough to eat. Raking the leaves away to discover a small clump of Snowdrops days from flowering, or noticing the roses you cut down in autumn have developed juicy plump buds waiting to burst forth in May and June.
Gardening is a meditation in itself, anything that one enjoys as a process that can take your mind away from day to day worries and strains. Undertaken ‘mindfully’, it can awaken the senses to the world around you. So next time you are out in the garden cutting the lawn, weeding or planting up your borders do start to look and listen more. Look up at trees, look and marvel at these giant organisms that in some cases have been growing 100 years or more, listen to bird in song.
In short, wake up and smell the freshly mown grass, it smells good!
I have a couple of jobs that require planting up, even though we are in the middle of a hot dry spell of weather. I have been using water retaining gel in my planting mixture underneath and around the new root ball as they come out of the pot the roots will find a welcome reservoir of moisture when they most need it.
always always water in thoroughly and then muclh with a compost or other soil conditioner to seal in the moisture.
Then water daily until the dry spell abeits.
With the combination of fine sunshine followed by generous amounts of rainfall over the last week or two, the garden is now beginning to come alive, what I do notice on my travels is the lack of herbacious perennials flowering in many back gardens. Bulbs such as the Daffoldils, Muscari, Primroses and Bluebelles seem to be prominent in most gardens right now but I would like you to consider adding a few others to your borders to fill the gap between now and the bedding season, which coincides with the beginning of the dramatic herbaceous season June-sept.
Here is a list of my top 10
in no particular order;
Doronicum orientale, Camassia Leichtinii, Dicentra Spectablilis, Primula Dendriculata, Matteuccia struthiopteris (Ostrich Heather fern), Pulmoniaria Blue Ensign, Primula Veris (Cowslip) and Pulsitilla Vulgaris (Rubra ), Iberis Sempervivens (Perennial Candytuft) and Aubretia (Purple cascade).
They are good to buy and plant now.
So go to it!
I have to share what has become a revelation for me this week. After refencing an area in a clients garden, and building a rather neat and tidy pregola and trellis fence, she asked me to paint all the timber in Rondeals Fencelife paint in Black Oak! A Black Pergola whatever next. But I have to say I take it all back..it looks very striking and gives the garden a contemporary feel. Once it is fully planted the black timber will really act as a spoil to the plants. Particularly the climbing roses we want to grow up the Pergola posts. Matt below loves painting!!
Faced with a garden in January and how to approach it, its not surprising so many of us simply close the back door and promise ourselves we attempt something in March! But we miss a trick if we don’t use this precious time before the growing season kicks off. More time spent now on garden housekeeping, the less time will be wasted on it later on, when you can do the fun stuff!
First up…cut down and remove every plant you don’t like and be rid of it. There are always some that seem to survive year to year and yet have no function or pleasure to them. This makes space for your new plants which will keep the garden evolving. read more tomorrow..Jon
I am sitting contemplating a few hours in my own garden today. December 27th and a week before the Team is back to work, the Sun is out and a few Christmas pounds to shift! My project today is to clean the greenhouse out. I don’t try and keep it warm through heating, but with the door closed, Perennials, pansies, cyclamen and violas can develop so much quicker in the relative protection of a cool glass house.
The Chillis have finally given up the ghosts so it’s time for a thorough clear out. I might also sow some sweet peas, to steal an early march on the growing season.
I have to say, I always get excited when we get passed the longest day…