Sometimes all that’s missing in the garden is someone to share it with – and social media could provide a spur-of-the-moment solution.
You know the kind of moment. You’re wandering around your garden or allotment and you think, ‘This all looks absolutely perfect – I just wish other folk could see it.’ I’ve had a few ‘perfect moments’ myself of late.
When the first Welsh poppies – which, like everything else, came slowly out of the deep spring freeze – began to flower in the slate wall near my greenhouse, I desperately wanted to shout about what wonderful early refuelling stations they are for bumblebees, and for the hoverflies which zip through the louvres to lay their eggs. An added treat would have been getting you to sniff the poppies’ most unlikely pear-drops fragrance. When I realised that small wild solitary bees were doing a better job of pollinating my strawberry flowers than my fumbling efforts with a paint brush, I dearly wanted to grab your arm and say, ‘Look at them go!’.
I can show you what great refuelling stations my Welsh poppies are for early bumblebees and hoverflies, but you really need to be here to savour their delicious pear drops fragrance…[/caption]
While planting out this spring, I had a burning desire to show you just how far my ‘improved’ soil has come from its acid, bracken-infested origins. I wanted you to feel it, sniff it, and see how, after being fed with seaweed, compost and green manures, it’s gone from rusty, lifeless red to rich, lively brown. On darker days I would have loved you to join in with my stamping frenzy as I yet again levelled the excavations from the subterranean activities of the mole (or whatever the darn thing is) that’s intent on undermining my slate-chipped ‘bit for sitting out’. You would need a head for some strong language, mind.
Some of this I can capture in words to share with you, or even photograph, but there’s no way you’re going to sniff those pear drops, watch a bee getting dusted with pollen, or hear Mr Mole get cussed unless you’re here with me. If you were, you could ask questions, and so could I. You might see a solution to something that’s bugging me that I would never have thought of, or vice versa. I might be looking for reliable fruit varieties to grow in this area, which you’ve had great success with. You might own up to cold feet about giving up insecticides; my peat-free greenhouse and garden, with its balance of bad bugs and the good bugs which keep them in check, might calm your jitters.
When I sieve through my gardening memories, including those moments when I picked up a tip or learnt something that’s never left me, I always find myself coming back to what I’ve seen with my own eyes. Yes, I’ve been stirred by what I’ve read about gardening; I’ve been halted in my tracks by a stunning photograph; I’m often engaged (and sometimes appalled) by what I watch or listen to. But it’s being there, alongside you, that’s had the biggest impact of all – being there to pick your brains, nose around, poke about inside your compost bin, beg a few seeds or a cutting or two, share a perfect gardening moment, and promise to come back soon.
As gardeners, we need to be sharing more moments together. In many ways we are; social media such as Twitter is connecting gardeners who might otherwise never hook up. But the world wide web – as great a joining-together place as it is – is no substitute for your garden or allotment.
Garden visiting is big business in Britain, and hugely popular. There are long-established garden-visiting schemes such as the National Gardens Scheme, which publishes The Yellow Book. There are many public gardens to visit. There are local village- and town-wide events to look out for. Garden Organic also runs an open gardens scheme among its members (although this is curiously and depressingly undersupported). However, almost all ‘open garden’ schemes require forward planning and long lead times, especially if guide books and brochures need printing. This means the dates when gardens are open tend to be fixed long in advance, with no wriggle room for weather woes. There’s every chance that your garden’s perfect moment will be a fortnight before (or after) you fling your gates open…
But what if you could use the powerful connectivity of the internet to invite other gardeners to come along and share in your garden’s moment of perfection? This wouldn’t mean that your whole garden or allotment would have to be polished – just part of it would do. Perhaps you’ve been moved to plant a border just for bees and insects, or you’ve let your lawn go and now have a bountiful food garden in its place. Maybe you’ve ditched garden pesticides and lived to tell the tale (as well as taste the harvest) and you want to showcase how earth-friendly, organic gardening does even more than it says on the tin. You might be a greenhouse or polytunnel geek, who grows everything using only renewable sunshine and wants to impart some ‘solar wisdom’. It might be that wildlife is the driving force behind your gardening, and you’re keen to tell other gardeners why. If frugality’s your thing, you might want to spread ideas on creating a good-looking garden using stuff that other folks leave behind.
There are no long lead times with the internet. If your garden’s perfect moment is a day, a week or a month away, you can let people know about it. You can let them know the time, the place, how to get there, and what they can expect to find. A tempting photograph will give potential question-askers (and answerers) a flavour of where your green fingers are at.
So shall we try some ‘pop-up’ garden open days, to coincide with the perfect and inspiring moments in your garden or allotment? If you’re game, I am. If you like the idea of wearing your earth-friendly approach to gardening on your sleeve for a couple of hours, an afternoon, or a whole day, then let me know. Send an email to [email protected] to register your interest. I’ll let you know the information I need to publish details of your pop-up garden opening on my website, and we can spread the word using social media.
I’ve always believed that our gardens are places where understanding about our natural world can flourish just as much as our plants do. It’s time for more gardeners to open up these beautiful and individual spaces for looking, nattering and learning. It needn’t be too daunting, and you don’t need to be a show-off. See you there?
Text and images © John Walker