Whooh I am pooped today, but all that is good. Having had many days of visitors who all proffered, unasked, such wonderful comments of enthusiasm for my garden, I am further inspired to get on out there once more. Now we have a break from such lovely welcome visitors of our own. We are mostly booked on the letting side of things but these loquacious guests have been family and friends; the latter especially are not at all obliged to make comment one way or another.
Iris sibirica with cow parsley in early morning sunlight
During May and early June the garden has been frothy with white native daisies, aquilegias, pink Campions, Knautia Macedonica, self-sown Nigella and cow parsley liberally sprinkled everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Contrasting blue splashes have been provided by Iris Sibirica in various forms but many clumps of the ordinary variety especially, and also the gloriously vivid magenta of Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus. Spires of foxgloves have topped all this and it has been a real wonderland of colour and form. But this froth is all dying down now which reminds me repeatedly of the mindfulness teachings that nothing is permanent, and that everything comes to an end, including ourselves of course. Also this ending is a new beginning as I consign all the dying remains to the compost heaps, knowing that next year their rotted corpses will provide great nutrients for all my new veggies and other plantings that require a good meal in the planting hole.
This is how I feel about both gardening and mindfulness, that they are so full of wonderful and liberating life lessons to consider, that they provide so many excellent teachings if we care to look deeply at the nature of life, and gardens in particular. Both gardening and mindfulness are more and more in the news about helping people with multiple complex health issues, both physical and emotional/mental, but neither should ever be confused as a therapeutic tool only; they have much to offer us all. My greatest moments of joy come from being fully in the moment and they happen most frequently when I am in my garden working mindfully at some job or another, sometimes creating an envisaged scene I particularly want, or planning what to do next, or just general chores of weeding, clipping and mowing. I am also deeply reminded of the cyclical nature of birth and death when I sow seeds, especially seeds that have distinct forms like beans etc. The teaching is that the seed must die for the plant to be born and the flower must die for the fruit to be born. How much we rely on this for our food without considering this in its deepest nature, and our flowers too for that matter? I am also amazed by the miracle of the meristem which allows cells to grow into shoots or roots and thus allows us to take cuttings as another form of propagation. Yet in all things, much must die for something else to be born, and thus we are shown, and can learn to recognise that we must let go of things in order to be happy, to be free.
Accents of Geum and Papaver orientale with more self sown froth around them
Therefore for the moment I am letting go of a need to keep the garden clear of flopped and falling froth as the cow parsley slowly fades and I want to crop before too many seed heads mature and fall. So I release a desire for tidiness for a while until I am able to get everything collected in, and space for the next rush to come, which is on its way anyway, and pushing its predecessors out of the way already in places. This is the other thing, that we cannot make room for new unless we let go of the old, and the gardening metaphor is such a good example as my garden comes towards the more summer colours of deep reds and oranges, of roses, hemerocallis and bergamot to name but a few. This, many gardeners do of course, but is there a tension in it, a feeling of pressure that you must get it done quickly? This is the thing to let go of. This pressure will not make you complete the task any more quickly, but will almost certainly take the moment by moment deep joy out of the task of clearing and making space, letting one thing go to make room for another. This is the mindfully aware moment when we release that tension, and start to really enjoy not just the outcomes but the processes of the garden. So happy gardening!
Text and photographs by Sylvia Clare, who has been an HPS member for more than 10 years.