Visitors to your garden

One of the appeals of gardens is that they look neat and intentional. It is very unusual for a completely wild garden to look right in front of a house. We have an idea in our minds that a garden is managed and maintained. However, ecologists would question some of the fundamental ideas behind gardening and garden maintenance. In particular the traditional monoculture of the lawn is something quite artificial. But then gardens as a whole are artificial.

Great landscape gardeners, such as Capability Brown, earned their reputations by creating artificial landscapes that look natural. So there may well be both aesthetic and ecological motives informing our sensibilities when we make judgements about gardens. The dandelion in the lawn or flowerbed is often taken as a signal that a garden is perhaps not being maintained as well as should be. But dandelions, like all “weeds”, are really just “plants in the wrong place”. Similarly, what some people regard as vermin, others welcome as wildlife.

There is a natural history to most gardens that predates the development of the residential area. The seeds that are buried in the soil may often seek to reinstate a meadowland or forest origin. It is for these reasons that it is sometimes a good idea to welcome visitors, both flora and fauna. We suggest that a garden isn’t a wilderness, but that it should take advantage of some plants that may choose to take root and what naturally thrives in a given location. You can learn a lot about this by viewing other gardens in a neighbourhood and maybe enjoy a vigorous plant that at first seemed to be a weed, but which simply came to visit your garden because it feels it is its natural home.

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