Sometimes you can search so hard for inspiration that it squeezes creativity to the point of running dry. I find more often than I used to that I’ve exhausted “the muse” and slowly I’m learning that I should take that as an early warning signal to pause and reflect.
I suppose for me creativity doesn’t feel like an inexhaustible supply. More like dipping into a well that replenishes from its surroundings but one you can overtax by demanding too much of it. I try to view these “dry spells” as something to work with rather than panic over.
Over the years we’ve carved out pieces of garden from the land around our home. Nature fights back, far more successfully than we can advance on her. Maybe that’s a good thing – to show that Nature can still overcome humankind’s attempts to dominate. When you’re trying to clear a space for growing vegetables or creating an artificial feature such as a path or lawn though it can feel very depressing! Realising that working with the plants rather than trying to impose formality means I feel that herbaceous plants just won’t work in amongst our thuggish couch grass, ground elder, nettles and chickweed. Whilst I feel confident growing vegetables, I am no ornamental gardener; planting and garden design is something that doesn’t come naturally to me – a skill I envy in others. I’d like to plant medium sized shrubs and smallish trees that can help suppress the more dominant weeds and make it easy to mulch under them rather than be locked into a doomed-to-fail never-ending round of weeding and hacking back. I simply don’t have the time or the skills for the kind of garden that requires meticulous care to keep it organised.
So a few days ago I decided to take a couple of hours out to pop over to the Dingle Nurseries not far from where I live and gain some inspiration. This beautiful garden plunging down to a lake below was planted up almost 50 years ago by the Joseph family who started the nursery. The daughter of original creators of the garden, once told me how they’d come back from school with friends on summer days and swim in the lake. Sadly she too passed away some years ago but her son and his wife now run it. Although it is “their garden”, it is open to the public for a small entrance fee and knowing that it was planted specifically with autumn in mind (my favourite season) I thought I’d head back to remind myself of some of the planting. It’s quite a few years since I last went round but it did influence me back when I first started being interested in gardens.
Curiously I found it less of a gardening inspiration and more as a balm for the soul. The hazy late summer sunshine and beautiful trees, shrubs and lake create a soothing atmosphere, heavy with the sleepy sounds of nature at peace and the hum of insects. Partway round I recognised it as a chance to recharge and so I stopped trying to focus on the plants as though by simply noting names and species I could crib from a master plantswoman; her genius lies in the harmony all around.
Sitting under the arbour, walking through the vast Gunnera manicata jungle that so intrigued me 10 years ago that I went and bought my own (now an established but altogether more modest clump!) and pausing by the bridge to listen to the fish plopping to break the surface tension of the lake and suck unwary insects down for tea, I felt like the garden was breathing out and inviting me to do the same. I sat for a while and drank in the peace through my skin, the dragonflies skimming, zooming and flitting around me. Making the most of their short lives in the air, living in the moment and glorying in their freedom.
I tried over and over to capture one on my camera and in the end gave up and took a lesson from them; live in the moment and try not to hold onto it forever.
I turns out however that I did catch the blurriest whisker of one zipping past. A wink of the eye and then gone over the wall and yonder.
I’m not sure how or when I will plant up my little patch of weedy ground. I have a few ideas. But more importantly I took the memory of the moment and the peace hanging over everything. If I could only plant that…