Early summer is a wonderful time of year to be out and about and looking for fresh ideas and new takes on old ones. Exuberant growth and lovely flowers are everywhere, there’s no shortage of brilliant plants to tempt us and examples of how they can be put together creatively.
Inspiration for our gardens can come from any number of places, things we see in the natural and built environment around us, visiting other people’s gardens, and of course horticultural shows which are created especially to inspire us. Chelsea Flower Show is the highlight of many a gardener's month of May and with such a huge amount of tv and press coverage we'd be hard pressed not to see some plant association, landscaping material or ornamental feature that takes our fancy.
But what about the layout of the garden, the canvas upon which we paint our pictures with plants and all the other details we like to add.
The style of other people’s gardens may be perfect for them, the architecture of their house and how it sits in its own particular landscape. Show gardens can be wonderful, thrilling set pieces, but they have no relationship at all to what surrounds them never mind any relationship to our own gardens.
Just like us, our gardens are unique, they sit in their own locations, around our homes, each with a particular aspect and topography and so have their own individual character with particular opportunities and constraints.
For me the real skill of a garden maker is not in the domination of the space and its planting, but in the understanding of all these elements, taking into account what the garden is trying to say by guiding and nurturing and making the most of its underlying essential character.
I recently went to a conference for professional designers and with several international speakers to listen to I’d hoped to find plenty of inspiration there. Two speakers were brilliant but unfortunately it wasn't quite what I'd hoped for and feeling a bit deflated I came home with my own professional advice and the well known quote by Alexander Pope ringing in my ears. ‘Look to the genius of the place in all’.
With the birds singing and bees buzzing around me I conceded to myself that although ideas might come from anywhere and much as I love other gardens, my inspiration is firmly rooted beneath my feet, right here in my own garden.