Gardens are never finished. Like any designed garden, my back garden was intended to have a certain look. In the first few years after installation you will the garden to grow faster to achieve that look. And by God, didn’t it grow fast in Sydney’s temperate climate? Then a few years down the track you think, “OK. That’s about it. Except for the lilly-pilly hedge which for some unknown reason just dawdles along, and the grass tree which is known to be a slow grower, most of these guys have filled out about right. You can stop growing now.”
Ha! Numbskull gardener!
Nature has her own agenda. The sapium raced to massive maturity twice its expected size, shading out much of the garden. Most of the cool climate plants I had brought from elsewhere either sat there doing nothing, or died. And other plants just kept the beat nice and steady, doing roughly what I expected or not, growing in their preferred direction rather than mine.
Given the small size of the space, and the excellent climate, some of these plants were going to very quickly outgrow their welcome. I needed to change my overall management strategy. A few plants had a compact, well defined form. But most were growing like stink in all directions. Reluctantly I acknowledged I needed to clip to shape. I say reluctantly because I have never particularly liked formal gardens with their rectilinear layout and highly controlled management shooing Nature from the garden. I decided to take a leaf from those greatest of small space gardeners, the Japanese,and where possible to encourage natural form, and where not, to clip, but mostly informal shapes rather than geometric formality. This fits better with the asymmetric layout of the garden anyway.
What I hadn’t counted on was that every time I act in the garden, clipping here, digging there, removing this, planting out my latest impulse purchase, Nature responds to my actions, in her own inimitable style, sometimes as expected, but usually not. Just does whatever. And rather than try to push it back into predetermined shape, I just run with it. See what happens. And often it is these unexpected vegetive effusions that give me the greatest delight. What this approach has resulted in is a garden as an unfolding process rather than finished product, where neither Nature or I are completely in control. bInstead we are engaged in this improvised call and response dance, that just unfolds through time. This timeline gives an idea of how this process has unfolded.