Taking part in No Mow May this year (although only in my back garden, so it’s hidden from view!) I’m enjoying seeing just what grows. There are flowering grasses which wave in the wind; dandelions growing taller than usual to reach the light; and some bush vetch and dove’s foot cranesbill add colour. It’s all so high now that I lose sight of a starling or a blackbird as they feed. I enjoy watching the garden all year, through the windows or while outside, but with No Mow May I’m seeing the garden in a new and wilder light.
Gardens and the wildlife they support are also on my mind because next week is Garden Wildlife Week, an annual event as June begins. And I’m thinking not “only” how gardening for wildlife helps biodiversity, but more how it can boost our own wellbeing. It’s so easy, isn’t it, to take garden wildlife for granted. It seems so everyday, so commonplace, that it’s all too easy to lose that sense of wonder or to stop noticing what’s out there.
Some news about gardening and wildlife is positive. No Mow May itself has become a familiar initiative. All year, more people now try to leave a wilder patch in their garden or construct a bug hotel to encourage insects. As housing takes up ever more land, there’s growing awareness how important a part gardens play as habitat for so many different creatures. But there’s a negative side too, with more hardens being concreted over, used to park cars where there’s no other space – and with more urban living, lots of households have no garden at all.
For many people, gardening is or becomes integral to wellbeing. It’s fundamental, focusing on life and growth, light, water, earth and air, in touch with the elements. It can literally root and ground you. For others, a garden’s more important as open space, space to move, to see, to feel, to get out of their own four walls.
For garden wildlife, a garden is home, or part of a wider area they depend on, where they grow or feed or nest. They too will alter and shape the garden, as they pollinate, disperse seeds, prey on other wildlife or crowd out other plants. In the garden world there’ll be all kinds of cooperation and struggle. This in itself is eye-opening for us, creating a different perspective. What for us is a backdrop to life, is the world to a garden insect, plant or bird. See that world through their eyes, and a lot changes, growing or shrinking in importance.
The garden is a world of its own, a world to itself, but so too is every part and element of that garden: soil, every plant, every tree, even every stone where insects might shelter.
Could experiencing the garden as a world to itself make us more contented and less restless, even if only for a time? Could that time become a moment away from the everyday, space away from our wider world?
Community gardens create opportunities for people with no garden to experience this. Indoor or outdoor vertical gardening is also a way to use limited space more fully. For whether you’re in your own garden or in a communal space, a large expanse of garden or a tiny yard, I feel it’s the fleeting moments that matter, the sights and sounds.
Do you respond to the idea of a garden as a world of its own? Do gardens and their wildlife help your wellbeing? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002