For my sins I have spent several hours recently tramping around local estates delivering election leaflets. This has provided a fascinating insight into the average local garden. The real ones – not like you see on Gardener’s World or the Chelsea Flower Show.
I make this distinction because gardening seems to be treated by the visual media like cooking. Millions of people love to watch cookery videos but live on take-aways and fish fingers. Millions love to watch Monty Don and his dog but have urban gardens full of rusting barbeques and decking.
So what does Monty think his typical viewer’s garden looks like? I assume he’s in the same bubble as the celebrity cooks, so he’s going to be well wide of the mark. Well, at least in this part of the world, they generally don’t look great.
They fall into four groups:
1. Immaculate. Unusual. Typically heavy on the veg and cut flowers, head gardener of pensionable age.
2. Struggling. Possibly aspiring to immaculate but time and knowledge poor. Some weird sights. Gnomes.
3. Jungle. Lost engine parts and bits of recycling the foxes have messed about with. The odd child’s toy.
4. Hard landscaping. Cars on breeze blocks. Marestail the only green thing.
In total, not very encouraging for Monty – or for wildlife.*
Firstly, jungle is – contrary to popular belief – not great for invertebrates. I aspire to a balance between 1 and 3. This combination was almost non-existent, interestingly. My favourite garden was one which had a kind of delicate urban meadow going on, with Fox and Cubs and Trefoil in the lawn. Judging by the veg, here was a competent gardener, but one who could give nature a nod with an aesthetically pleasing and time saving feature.
Secondly, jungle is mostly the look of rented houses and – consequently – becoming more and more prevalent. Why on earth should young renters bother?
Thirdly, the more modern the house the more miniscule the “garden” and the more aggressive the hard landscaping. This is appallingly obvious, not the least because of the almost complete absence of pollinators in recently built areas. And these are areas surrounded by “countryside”.
So I took myself off to the local meadow by way of an antidote. Even here there seemed to be fewer bees than there used to be. Maybe the cold spring has been hard for them. Oh well. Here’s a nice picture of an orchid from the meadow anyway; Monty – or Nigella for that matter – would be pleased.
*Talking of which – people! – go easy on the damn slug pellets!