Thursday, 25 February 2010

Is Spring Here Yet?

The days are slowly getting longer but the temperatures don't seem to be increasing with it. My frustration at the slow change of seasons has been building for a while now. I am more than eager for the warm temperatures to return.

But I have another frustration, I am missing my creative energy. Most of you who have read this blog probably don't realise that for 11 years I was a garden designer and landscaper. For most of those years I loved every minute of it but then slowly I started putting my body under pressure by taking on too many jobs at one time, I had the habit of saying "yes" to a job before I'd worked out a way of finding time for it. Then I moved into the basement of a beautiful Scottish mansion rent free in exchange for cutting the lawns of the 8 acre garden.

It seemed a good idea at the time but the increased workload meant that my back gave out in a bad way and I had to give it up under doctors orders. 
Now that my back is stronger again and I've had to endure an enforced rest I really miss the opportunity that I had to use my creative juices and interact with clients.

Most of my clients usually had a fair idea of what they wanted their garden to look like but are overawed with the creative design process so they come to me to put their ideas on paper. It was sadly rare for a client to come to me and say 'do whatever you like'. I have to admit that I would have loved it if a client let me go wild with my ideas and gave me a budget to match but really that would be impractical for many reasons. Firstly I did not do the design for me, my designs were for the customer. Therefore I had to design something that appealed to them aesthetically. I also had to design a garden that suited their lifestyle. There was no point in designing a garden that involved a lot of maintenance if they weren't keen gardeners or if they worked two jobs and simply didn't have the spare time or energy to maintain it.
I don't believe in instant gardening, by that I mean I don't believe in buying specimen plants that are going to fill an area out. I believe that gardens should have a period of growth. Gardens evolve with time, they change with the seasons and mature.
The gardens I designed (unless it was a really small garden) usually took a period of 3 years to fill out and mature into the design I laid out on paper. Some gardens would even take up to 7 years to go through this gestation period. I tended to encourage my customers to spend less money on the big showy specimen plants that would instantly fill out the space and instead encourage them to spend the money on more plants that were smaller in size. There are advantages to this approach to gardening. With each passing season the garden will mature and change, giving my clients something new to see. An instant garden will always look the same, it might look beautiful but without change it may become stale and a few years down the road ripped out and started  afresh. Also if you buy smaller plants but buy more of them its looks more natural than just buying them in ones, twos and threes. Another advantage is that occasionally over time you see where plants might be better placed, its not so easy moving big plants about but not only that if your garden takes 3 years to mature it gives you 3 years or more to settle on the plan that you want and not one the designer wanted. A plan can look great on paper but doesn't always translate so well in practice, even designers can get it wrong sometimes. I always advised customers to look to nature to see what will work for their garden. Nature has a way of showing the designer who is boss, no one does it like nature. Now that a new Spring season is almost upon us I have taken the opportunity to make up some new adverts to try and get new work in a new country, wish me luck.


just a girl said...

Good luck! I did know of your gardening prowess and I hope you find people to ake you on.

PurestGreen said...

Bring on the spring! Have a great time getting back into it. Yesterday I picked up a guidebook "Scotland for gardeners." It was a massive book, full of beauty and ideas. I will buy it before my mom visits, so she can be awed by all the amazing gardens in this country.

Madame DeFarge said...

I think I need you for my back garden. At the moment, it's a wilderness tribute act.

Scotsman said...

Jag: Thanks, it was easier back home getting customers as I at least knew people who could refer me.

Purest Green: I'm sure it will also double as a source of information for new places to visit too.

Madame DeFarge: You could leave it that way and just call it your wildlife garden, or when the accountancy course pays off you can take a few pictures and measurements and I can make you a plan.

LarryLilly said...

My dad was like you except he had me, a strapping teen as his "back". He LOVED gardening, and not the veggie type. He loved planting, designing, reading on what worked in the area, what didnt. He had a sense of size and proportion. When we planted a tree some 30 feet from the house on the large acreage, I asked why so far. He said in 20 years it will be too close. I looked at him like he was daft, but dug a 6 foot wide hole 4 feet deep and placed 8 bales of peat and top soil into it and helped move a 20 foot tree into it. He got to live there for some 35 years and yes, it did get too close, almost. His place was a gem of a masterpiece, and when i moved on, college and what not, every time I made it back, he had stakes in the ground where he wanted more holes dug.

Me, I learned from him proportion and natural design. When I move into homes with typical Home Depot plantings; same common shrub stacked 3 deep and 8 wide, I rip all but one out and fill in the rest with different plants.

I know what you love and he would have hung out with you, shared ideas and plans.

1st Lady said...

I stayed at that house too. Lost at tennis on the courts and always feared a bull was hiding behind a tree when I walked the long driveway through fields into town.

Scotsman said...

Larry: I've met many a guy like your dad. I could have learned from him. I admit that there were times that I wish I had the sense to put someone else to work on the heavy digging but on the few occasions I did employ someone to help with the workload they were either of no use whatsoever or I took pity on them and gave them the 'fun' work.

So yeah maybe I would have learned from him. I am sure I would have enjoyed the stories.

1st Lady: I didn't get the chance to whack tennis balls, just nettles that were encroaching the courts. I didn't see any bull, but the local farmer did use the parkland for his sheep. I did love that 1/2 mile drive through those old trees for me it was the sign of a nice work to come or a sign of a good work day just come to an end. Thanks for dropping by.