Who is Garden Warrior?

As far back as I can remember I have always loved the natural world. As a kid I spent hours exploring the fields close to where I grew up and would collect all manner of plants and creepy crawlies. My bedroom windowsill was jam-packed with pots as I tried to grow various plants, usually from seed, to create my own little jungle.

Contrary to what many people expected, myself included, I didn’t pursue a career in biology or horticulture, but instead studied maths and then accountancy. However the desire to sow and nurture plants never went away and when my partner and I moved to our current home in 2012 I set about creating a garden full of all my favourite exotic plants.

And then something changed …

I realised that the prima donnas I was raising were becoming more and more demanding, be it for water or fertilizer, protection from pests or from the cold and wet of winter. They were dictating when we could go on holiday and were moving in and taking over the house during the winter months. Added to that, whilst they put on a grand end of season show, they took the winter months off and were slow to get going in the spring.

By their very nature, these actors were all exotic and largely foliage plants and so had little to offer the local wildlife aside from a tasty meal to a passing slug. What is it about slugs and snails that they’ll munch pretty much anything? Here they seem particularly partial to the young shoots of Dahlias, Brugmansias and Canna, as I found out to my cost!

Even as I was coaxing my newly created exotic bed in the front garden through it’s first few months I was feeling the pull of nature calling me to do something different and so a decision was made. Autumn 2019 saw me sell off a lot of my plants, out came Cannas and Musa, Gingers and Tetrapanax, Persicaria and Colocasia. Plans to change the layout of the back garden started to crystallise and thoughts turned to using a more native planting palette.

Winter 2019/20 was a wet one and so work to start making the changes was postponed until things dried up and the days started to get longer and warmer. When lockdown was imposed this became the perfect opportunity to focus on reshaping the garden in readiness for the new direction I was setting out on. During those first weeks of isolation I busied myself clearing the end of the garden, moving my DIY greenhouse and laying a new path. Knowing from experience that I tend to be over ambitious when it comes to garden projects I decided to delay the permanent planting for a year and instead use vegetables and annuals as fillers.

So here I am with my garden in transition. The pond is dug and brim-full and the first seedlings that will be my perennial wildflower meadow are just showing. I still have plans for a small native hedge with woodland edge planting, taking my inspiration from the plants I see growing locally when I’m out walking in the countryside close to where I live.

I won’t completely let go of the exotic plants but they will be confined to the greenhouse and around the patio. Another project currently in the very early stages of planning is to turn the front garden over to a gravel garden, that way the only parts of the garden that will require regular watering will be the greenhouse as well as the pots around the patio and the front door.

I’m looking forward to having a more sustainable, wildlife-friendly garden, full of insects and supporting other animals further up the food chain.

Garden Warrior – 1st January 2021