Somewhere on this site is a map of my garden, carefully measured and drawn to scale by me a year or two back. Only there is no scale marked on it, so you don’t know how big it is and nor did I. Well, I revisited it and worked out that my back garden is about 500m2. It’s an odd shape, so it doesn’t really look that big, but it is.
Armed with that figure and with the idea in my head that it was a bit bigger than average, I looked online to find out what the average size of UK gardens was. 14m2, according to the HTA. That is exactly the size of my front garden, which I’d dismissed as being too small to include. Add it in and my garden is 37.6 times the average for the country. To put it mildly, I was surprised.
I have no idea what is included in the “average” figure and frankly, it doesn’t much matter. I am privileged to own more than my fair share.
I suppose if the garden consisted of rough grass with a washing pole and a couple of rusting cars I wouldn’t be writing a blog about it. I would also be feeling a bit guilty because I was brought up to believe that with privilege comes responsibility, in this case to put the ground to good use. Obviously, there will be a very wide range of views on what that should mean.
I overheard someone the other day saying you could keep four, or was it five? Alpacas on an acre. I could grow veg, or fruit, wildflowers or coppiced willow, lawn or roses, chickens or rabbits; the list is endless, the notion of good use elusive. A lot of people would take the view that as my land I should be free to do whatever I like with it. We are very adept at justifying what we do, even though we mainly do what we want to do.
Mostly it works out OK in that everybody does something a little different and while one person is conserving rare plants another is benefitting wildlife and yet another providing a valuable amenity, and so on. A garden may contain trees that are visible from and enjoyed by people over a much wider area. A quiet, overgrown garden may be a nesting site for birds frequenting dozens of nearby properties. Even closely mown lawns with no wildflowers can be suitable for burrowing bees and extensive soil fauna. Most categories are not exclusive, it is perfectly possible to tick several boxes.
The only rule I have is that my garden shouldn’t be dull, which is suitably vague. It would be dull to some people, it’s all plants and has no barbecue or hot tub. It’s not much use if you’re a teenager wanting to kick a ball about, there being no lawn. But I think I put my patch of land to good use. I grow a very wide range of plants which in turn support a wide range of insects and birds. I have resident hedgehogs and slow-worms, frogs, toads and newts.
I’m not fastidious about being tidy, I have natives including bluebells and foxgloves, primroses and welsh poppies. Heleniums, Fuchsias and apple trees are among many non-natives that are popular with bees and butteflies.
For nearly thirty years, until I retired three years ago, I worked on a nursery, growing plants for a living. The garden was to a degree a trial ground and a collection of stock plants. It never seemed big enough then and even now, in my mid sixties, it is stuffed with different plants of all descriptions. I also have two allotments, adding another 400m2 to the mix.
There will come a time when I am no longer able to cope with it all, which is a situation that quite a few people I know find themselves in. I hope I can then afford to employ a young gardener for at least a few hours a week and give them an opportunity to learn a little more about the profession they have come into. I also hope I can bring myself to let someone else do it.