Relaxing with the thorny issue of an obsessively tidy garden 

Box ball at Gardener's Call

All a bit neatly trimmed – but is it relaxing?

It hasn’t been easy but I may today have started relaxing with the idea that a garden doesn’t always have to be neat and tidy. 

 I think it may have been my Dad’s fault as I can vividly recall him weeding beneath a beech hedge (which he trimmed using a spirit level) at our home at Brightwalton on the Berkshire Downs . He in turn would probably blame his Dad who had the neatest box hedges lining his vegetable garden in nearby Chaddleworth. Perhaps it’s to be expected with a family called ‘Hedges’!  

 The obsession with a tidy garden has haunted me ever since. But the end result is that I still eradicate every daisy in favour of a lush, universally green lawn. And I deadhead my roses quite manically.

 But then today I had a mental breakthrough when, on one of my many visits to the shed, I looked up and spotted a profusion of ripening blackberries hanging above my head.

 Relaxing with brambles

Blackberries at Gardener's Call

Blackberries don’t grow on trees – or do they?

Has this happened a month or so back, the juicy fruits would simply have been “brambles” and they would have had to go. The invading suckers had stolen in when I wasn’t fully concentrating and established themselves in the one still substantially wild part of the Flintstones garden.

 Its a place I have been putting off tackling because it is so inaccessible and boasts a half-dead tree growing on a steep bank. Its doesn’t look good but it does act as a screen between us and our neighbours on the higher ground.

 My first instinct was to pick the blackberries and then eradicate the thorny stems. But then I had an uncharacteristically loosened-up thought: why not create a ‘blackberry tree’ by winding the stems of the invading fruit around the branches of the dying and otherwise naked hornbeam? 

 Relaxing at last?

Lawn at gardener's Call

Obsessive about my lawn

 So that’s the plan. Previously untamed hooligans are forming an unlikely alliance that allows them both to survive.

 But is this, I ask myself, significant psychologically? A year into retirement am I finally starting to become relaxed? Time will tell but right now I have a lawn that needs its stripes renewed…

7 comments on “Relaxing with the thorny issue of an obsessively tidy garden 

  1. It sounds promising that you have even thought about this and are maybe feeling more aware of how you do things. All options are of course open – to be tidy or to let things be – you do have a choice. Isn’t that a nice thought! In fact my latest blog at is about trying to reduce the work in the garden by letting some things be. Maybe you will do the same. All the best for your retirement, Julie

    • Thanks Julie. I think you are right – there is a lot of satisfaction in letting nature be the driving force. The joy of the blackberry is that nature gave me an opportunity to resurrect a dead tree and then allowed me to tinker with it so that the fruit is within reach. Love your blog.

  2. I can relate to this Barrie. I sometimes feel that emaculate gardens and hedges trimmed within an inch of their lives, lack soul! My garden has a lot of “soul” in it right now.

    • ‘Soul’ has to be a candidate for a future
      blog Sandra. What is that puts soul into a garden? I guess it’s anything (plant or feature) that makes you feel emotion. Calm is an obvious one but a tree planted by or in memory of someone you love can make you feel deep personal emotion. I’m going to plant one this winter for my Mum

  3. I have to say that, while my garden is a profusion of colour, it doesn’t bear close inspection if perfection is what you are looking for, but I like it like that. Letting some areas ‘do their own thing’ can produce rather nice surprises. I have noticed several plants that I didn’t plant this year, such as Nicotiana and Antirrhinum have appeared – clearly self-seeded from last year’s annuals and they seem all the stronger for growing naturally. The only blackberries we have in our garden are too high to reach sadly, climbing skywards in next door’s yew tree, but I picked some from the hedgerows while out walking the dogs this morning. Relax and enjoy yours. Live and let live!

    • I think you have got it taped Sue. All your garden has to do is make you the owner feel good. If trimming does it for you then that’s fine but how much nicer when nature takes a hand. Mine has masses of self seeded little primroses that will give me a real boost next spring.

  4. I’ve let my garden ‘go’ along certain boundaries and wild corners… it still needs a significant amount of work a couple of times a year to keep it in check. Brambles do need to be cut back after fruiting, and sometimes again in spring, before they trail and reroot further than you want them.
    But it is amazing what moves in, and I am now ‘gardening’ these areas to encourage their wildlife rather than from a traditional ‘tidy garden’ point of view.
    But that initially ability to let go (often with that feeling ‘what would my dad say to this?’ ), and see where it takes you, is a leap of faith worth taking.

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