This was my first ever article written for The Farmers Journal. Originally entitled ‘easier gardening’ it was published under the title Garden Nirvana October 23rd 2004. The great Dr David Robinson had passed sometime before and I remeber via email noting to my Editor Matt Dempsey that having gone through such an amazing life, knowing Dr. Robinson had left a void in so many a persons rather than having simply passed through. Amazing, wonderful and always remembered.
Have a very happy Monday morning and as always enjoy!
‘What a man needs in gardening is a cast iron back, with a hinge in it’- Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, 1871
One of the main factors required in Japanese gardens is that relaxation, not perspiration is the end result. Moss lawns are created, dwarf trees are planted and the use of bonsai means that the garden becomes a soulful experience rather than an uncalculated costly or potentially hospitalised one. So why do we Irish spend in excess of Euro 2.33 billion annually on horticultural products and services.
I am not suggesting that ‘no maintenance’ is attainable through using ‘The Four Universal Energies’ as a theorem principle for garden design. No maintenance is only achievable through Mr Macadam’s ingenious invention, or concrete. I am proposing that there is a balance. The rear of your home does not necessarily need to be a car park nor does it wish to be a compacted version of the rain forests.
When we decide to invest in a boundary shrub like the Leyland – not for our fruit farm in Co. Kilkenny – but for our two-bedroom townhouse in the city, surely we only have ourselves to blame. Would it not be better to invest in a garden concept that requires only one day’s labour per six months? It’s a simple theory. The longer a plant takes to become a saleable product – the more it costs – more important, the slower it grows and therefore the lower the maintenance. This is mainly due to the amount of pruning required and the amount of debris removed. The cheaper quotation in landscaping is therefore not always the answer, at least not long term.
On average spending 3% of the value of your house (wisely) should add approximately 8% – 13% to the value of your home. We generally choose for it to be the last of our agenda when ‘doing up’ the house and usually we have little money left to spend.
The garden should be a place for the heart to unwind. A simple complexion of nature is easier than complex warrants on a tight fiscal policy. The use of select stone with a simple choice of a few slow growing semi mature plants will be a higher initial investment on your property but with no grass to cut, some serenity has been inscribed in today’s diary.
I am a plant lover. I do not wish to blight my green friends with coloured stones. The truth is, sometimes it is necessary to substitute what some may consider to be hard work and an expensive (albeit rewarding) hobby for a cup of tea and a nice view from afar.
This article is not my personal epitaph or biblical manuscript that I wish to impose upon others in any way. Should the scenario be that one has a piece of land, a patch, a rented house or just does not totally enjoy (what is my equivalent to ironing and drying dishes ambidextrously) ‘the chore’ whilst breaking their spine; I believe there is a way to come up trumps and not have to breakdown on each occasion the curtains are opened and you realise koala bears have nested in your prehistoric grounds. You wont be avoiding work, just intelligently reducing your work output.
It is my strong suggestion that if you want a survey done on your house, you do call a civil engineer or architect. If you want advice, or a design for your grounds, pay for the services of a qualified horticulturalist and specify the amount of time you actually will (be honest!) spend in your garden or get an annual cost to maintenance based on their proposal.
The main ‘chore’ or cost is the lawn. Cutting it. Use a mulching mower if you must. Ride on and push (with or without gears are available). With not stopping or starting to empty the grass box at the ‘heap’ you have at the bottom of the garden – this will (by my experience and analysis) reduce your cutting time by three if not four. With a good thick edge to your lawn, which allows you to put the wheel of the mower upon it and reduces the amount of edging you need to do you are now nearing that cup of tea a little quicker. Even better, try sowing a lawn with a dwarf seed or if the area is large enough use a dwarfing agent, which is applied using a calibrated sprayer. Should the lawn be able to go? Turn the entire area to plants and bark much or plants and pebble with a black plastic beneath. Do be careful. Cheaper isn’t always the best and some maintenance will be required no matter what you do.
Don’t curse the thoughts of what should be relaxation. Reconsider and redesign. The whole key to enjoying the life outside your four walls is to make it suit your lifestyle.