I’ve been blessed enough to spend my whole life living amongst beautiful gardens. My first home as a child was a tiny but beautifully soft-pink weatherboard house surrounded by white roses that filled the air with perfume, lush grass that delighted little toes, and ethereal silver-birches, whose seeds I spent hours squelching between my fingers and sprinkling through the air like fairy dust. My next home’s garden was filled with English box hedges, towering pines and silver gum trees, which provided shade in the blistering Australian summer, and a dramatic backdrop to the dark winter storms. I don’t consider a garden a luxury; it is completely necessary for health and happiness.
But we don’t always have the extravagance of a lot of space. In fact, I anticipate that my first home with my partner will be considerably small in the garden-department. As I’ve wandered around London in the last few days, I’ve considered the very British love of gardening, and what lessons we can all learn from their botanical exploits.
A Garden is Not a Luxury
If you follow the trail of winding paths through the Rose Garden of Hyde Park, you will come across a multi-faceted park bench circumnavigating a shade-giving tree. One side of the bench proclaims, ‘The Royal Parks are not a luxury, they are a necessity. Can you imagine London without them?’ This wooden engraved sentence encapsulates the British approach to their green spaces and is a wonderful lesson for us all. Your garden is an extension of your home, whether it is three acres or one hanging basket. Treat it with the love, attention and pride you would the rest of your home.
Gardens Are Generous
Twisting wisteria limbs cling to the exteriors of many stunning London homes, and the fleeting colourful, fragrant appearance of their blossoms fills passers-by with such joy. I know, because I’m lucky enough to have been one of these spectators recently. People stop and stare at these blooms; smiles spread over weary faces and for a beautiful moment the whole world slows down and condenses to this small miracle. My favourite thing about this show of botanical brilliance is its generosity; the desire to bring joy to countless others who wander past on their way to work or buying the groceries and get to experience a surge of ecstasy from this one-plant garden.
You’re Creating a Home
A healthy garden is home to all manner of living things, and while you may not want yours to include the (alarmingly huge!) ducks and birds seen in Hyde Park, it can certainly become a haven for all sorts of animals. If you live in an urban area, you are providing an even more wonderful gift through your garden, to vital creatures such as bees, birds, butterflies and insects.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Does your entire garden consist of one window planter box? Wonderful! Make it the most indulgent, joy-inducing, decadent planter box you are capable of creating! Many homes in London are tight on space; just make the very best that you can of that space.
Gardens Bring People Together
There is something truly irresistible about a natural space in an urban setting, and you will find these pockets bring together people from all walks of life. In these quiet secluded sanctuaries, lovers share kisses, friends expound hilarious stories, and children tumble down grassy knolls. The very best gardens are not about plants. They are about connection.
Sight-lines Make For Magical Moments
If you have a garden large enough, consider how it will be viewed and experienced from different angles. Some of the most magnificent moments in Hyde Park come from the experience of taking one more step forward… and suddenly you are looking down an alleyway of perfectly aligned, towering ancient trees. Or you slowly come around a bend, and discover the perfect configuration of garden beds, which lead your eye to a precisely placed water feature.
Your Garden is a Welcome
In the urban sprawl, grey concrete merges into layers of rough bricks. There seems to be so little ‘softness’ to ease the unending man-made concrete. What could be a more welcome interlude than the gently swaying sage-green leaves of two azalea plants greeting you at a friend’s door? Consider your front door a gateway to another world for your visitors. What would you like your gateway to say? Would you like to ease their day by showering them in sweet-smelling roses as they cross the threshold? Or perhaps create a moment of mystery by presenting them with the unusual leaves of an exotic fern?
The Best Things Take Time
I spent an indulgent number of hours whiling away time reading in the Rose Garden of Hyde Park. There was so much to see and do in London, but after a long day, I invariably found myself returning to this oasis. But even in this historic, well-maintained garden, there were signs that even the best gardens take time to build. The climbing roses (which were a few weeks from being in full bloom) are still slowly growing to cover a long – archway. In a few years, this walk will be truly magnificent. The best things in life can take years of love to cultivate.