Every second Thursday of the month I have my mother-in-law over for an evening of cocktails and chatter in my garden. It’s an effort I started shortly before marrying my husband in hopes of establishing a better “mother-daughter” relationship between the two of us. Needless to say, the affair took a while to settle into a tolerable experience, because my mother-in-law’s idea of a garden differed profoundly from my own. For her, gardening involved cute outfits, perfectly manicured flowers, absolutely no over-growth, and the only bugs that existed were cute, ceramic lady bugs that filled the gap around her potted plants. While this is often fine and dandy, sometimes it is nice to let nature be nature, and I made it my mission to teach my mother-in-law a little about why a garden au naturel can be a beautiful thing.
Let me start off by saying that I do appreciate the appearance of a traditional garden—having spent much of my life in or around them, and consulting people on ideal plant growth. However, after having spent so much time in focusing on perfection, I found myself reaching a point where I just wanted to let my hair down at home, so to speak. I decided to let my garden take a season to do what it wanted. This is not to say I neglected it by any means; I still watered my plants regularly, made sure no invasive plants find their way in, and turned the soil when needed—but essentially I truly did let it go, and I found the results to be very pleasing.
For one thing, the amount of bug life—something that once would have bothered me greatly—became a fascination for me. Snails were once a problem, one that I remember my grandma paying me a dollar an hour to help her take care of as a little girl, as we both roamed her yard with milk cartons half full of captured snails. Now I enjoy their presence, and find their pace of life a source of relaxation as I sit in my garden each evening. The spiders create custom tapestries for me to appreciate, and their intricacy and finesse allow me to realize just how creative nature can be. Allowing the insects to flourish gave a life to my garden that I could have never expected or experienced other wise, and it gave me a true look at the tenacity of the natural world.
The plants themselves took on their own lives as well. I was shocked at how beautiful I found this—not specifically in the aesthetics, though I certainly do appreciate this, too, but the idea of them taking their own path. I realize this sounds very free spirited, and it is. The idea of living entities finally breaking the boundaries and going their own way is a wonderful way to perceive the phenomenon of a natural garden. This is as organic as it gets; you can appreciate manicured plants, and their sole purpose of looking pretty, but this is an artificial beauty only made possible by external manipulation. Here we have life, existing and growing in a way all its own. This idea relaxes me, because when I am in my garden I like to feel that I am also breaking away from the external confines of life, and be how ever I want to be.
Perhaps the best part is that a natural growing garden is that it reduces some hassle in your life. I love gardening, and I love the joys of helping others reach their gardening goals; however, there are times that this can begin to feel like work, and when you allow it to consume you—like I have been known to do—it becomes hard to just sit and enjoy your space when you know there are a million things to do, and resist the urge to work when you should be enjoying the moment. Obviously with the natural garden this issue never arises, and every time I step in with my cup of Chai I am able to linger for hours, soaking in the pleasures of the outdoors, and not once feel tempted to go to work.
I am not sure if I have been able to sway my mother-in-law much about her position concerning my garden, or if she will ever see the beauty in it the way I do; but I know it is not important, because my garden is there for me to enjoy, and that is what matters most. I have also found that my experiences with the natural garden has enhanced the way I manage other, more typical gardens. I feel much more attune to what is happening amongst the plants, what they are doing and how they respond to their varying environments. If you have not taken the time to go and enjoy the wonders of nature in your own back yard, I recommend you at least give it a try; it may change the way you garden forever.