No, I didn’t run over my foot with the lawnmower or get poked in the eye by a rose bush (although the latter has happened). This is about how a garden can surprise you on the upside, especially if you don’t mind letting go of things a bit. It can be great fun when things turn out unexpectedly. Here are three of my garden ‘accidents’ from this summer:
1. ‘Merveille Sanguine’ turned into Papal Purple.
Merveille Sanguine was the name of the dark red hydrangea that I planted a few years ago. Due to no-one being able to pronounce it, and the English translation of ‘Bloody Marvellous’ being just too much for us polite Kiwis, it now seems to be sold under the name of Raspberry Crush. But as my soil has a ph of 6, which is on the acidic side, the red flowers try to turn blue. I suddenly realised that I have these amazing deep purple hydrangea flowers, which a friend dubbed Papal Purple.
2. The ‘potager’ turned into an installation: The Exploding Vegetable Garden.
For anyone who has gazed longingly at the luscious photos of perfect Allium flowers that seem to be in every English garden currently, I have a suggestion. Grow leeks.
Yes, it’s not exactly the grand potager at Villandry. It’s leeks and parsley going extravagantly to seed. I planted the leeks last autumn but I didn’t thin them out enough. They turned into supermodel leeks, very tall and skinny, so I gave up on the idea of leeks sauteed in butter and cream and decided to let them flower. The bees absolutely love them – you can see in the photo how I had to mow around the flowers the other day because there were so many bees, looking quite intoxicated, all over them.
Anyway I think its very beautiful and more of an art installation than a boring vege garden! I’m putting it in for the Turner Prize this year.
3. A ‘weed’ in the path turned into Campanula ‘Burghaltii’.
I had noticed rosettes of pointed leaves growing out of a paved path through my ‘woodland’ area, and decided to leave them there because a) they might turn into something interesting, and b) they were too hard to pull out.
Good decision. The plant turned out to be Campanula ‘Burghaltii’, a cross between Campanula latifolia and C. punctata.
The flowers appear on long, lax stems, with purple buds opening to pale mauve flowers spotted on the inside a bit like a foxglove. It has been flowering away for weeks now, in the shade, and untroubled by our very dry summer.
I admire formal gardens, for their qualities of balance, symmetry, and restraint, and can design them for clients. But I am simply unable to impose a ruthless control over my own garden. There is certainly underlying structure and considered design, but I also enjoy allowing things to happen by chance. If I like the effect, it stays!