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Romantic Gardening

The number of ways in which you can lay out a garden is almost limitless so it helps if you stop thinking of how you can fill the space and start thinking of the garden as a piece of personal theatre.

The key elements of the stage are surprisingly similar to that of a garden with one added bonus – you get to be part of the production.

Setting the stage

Gardening is a theatrical art where the plants are the performers and the walls, seats and pathways are the props. It’s no coincidence that Shakespeare included gardens in many of his plays. As gardeners we can play a part in shaping how the story evolves, transforming our personal green space into something that makes a statement of how we live.

The most wonderful part of creating a garden or looking after an existing one is that there are so many opportunities to let nature do a lot of the work. Left untended any garden will eventually return to a state of careless rapture. That’s perfect for wildlife but modern life usually means having some control so there’s a fine balance to be forged, just like any friendship. There’s give and take on both sides.

Understanding the rules

Perhaps the Greeks knew that best since Demeter, the goddess of horticulture and gardens was also the goddess of law and order! Classical gardens have long been home to gods and goddesses who would often watch sentinel-like along avenues of pleached limes or command the focal point in a courtyard garden.

These mythical characters of the garden remind us that our relationships with our gardens are a humble affair. We should work with nature, not seek to rid them of nature’s influence. Gardens which derive from hard work, inspired ideas and the fruits of trial and error are a partnership between the garden owner and the soil which is the heart and soul of any garden.

Working with the soil is a sensuous activity. It’s easy to mistakenly think that all soils are the same. The truth is that soils are as individual as people and getting to know what type of soil you have will make life easier and allow you to get the most out of a garden. When you understand the soil underneath your feet, you’ll realise the potential of what you can grow. The moment you start to dig, you start to learn.


Twists and turns

Like any good play gardens should tell a storyline with twists and turns of the plot, suspense and most of all have characters which grab you visually and make you want to discover more. When a garden enthrals the eye it’s easy to fall in love with.

As with theatre, a simple layout will allow you to make the most of the space. You rarely see a stage crammed with furniture and a garden should work in the same way, allowing you to develop scenes within it, often experienced one after the other, perhaps across a lawn, through an archway and into an entirely different space with its own individual mood and atmosphere.

It’s worth remembering also that gardens exist long after dark. Some of the most enigmatic gardens can be best seen by moonlight, when plants are draped with a myriad of shadows and there is a tangible air of mystery, of an oasis waiting to be explored. Moonlighting is also a type of theatrical lighting employed on a modern stage to create mood and drama. With a few carefully placed lights (or candles) you can give the space a wonderful atmosphere.

The relationship you have with your garden is a long term one and one which will gently change and evolve the more you spend time developing it. Don’t be afraid to try out new things this spring, be it plants or bigger stage sets which set the scene for your own perfect space.