This is the final part of the walled garden, and it’s not a vegetation pattern model… which is why we ended up calling it the Mixed Garden.
It’s a collection, then?
That’s right. Basically, it’s traditional mixed borders filled with everything my mother loved. It’s a completely different way of gardening than that in the vegetation pattern models, and it gives you a completely different kind of garden.
How different? Apart from the obvious.
Well firstly, it’s less restricted. If you’re going to plant vegetation pattern models, you are setting yourself strict parameters, and the minute you depart from those, your model gets fuzzy round the edges, and people who grew up in the original will no longer recognize it. On the plus side, those visitors will not feel homesick; but it does rather defeat the object.
Whereas in a mixed garden, you can do what you like. For instance, you can plant garden hybrids, which don’t – well, shouldn’t – occur in natural vegetation patterns. These tend to be bigger, and more floriferous, and generally more shouty than the usually more delicate species plants.
You can also plant things from wherever you like. This mixed garden has a lot of south east Asian plants, and North Americans, and Europeans, along with a few that are also in the rest of the garden.
It also means that your flowering period is likely to be longer. The South African flowering period is particularly short, but even the other three are not as long as the sort of thing you can create when you mix and match. The mixed garden has colour almost all the year round.
So, if a mixed garden is colourful for longer, and easier all round… why bother with those models?
Because they’re different – your garden will be like nobody else’s.
Because they’re beautiful, in a different way from a traditional mixed border.
Because they’re a challenge, and therefore very satisfying… to create something like this, you need a deeper level of knowledge and understanding.
And, believe it or not, because they’re less work once you’ve got them established. My mother explained this as follows (and I thought she was just being loopy, until I tried maintaining the garden myself and discovered that she was absolutely right…. as always):
“You see darling, these plants know each other. They evolved together, and they’ll get along. But over there, you’ve got the Americans next to the Chinese, and the French next to the Germans, and all they try to do is kill each other. It’s a lot of work stopping them.”
In the models, mostly all you have to do is weed. In the mixed garden, you also have to spend at least as much time stopping all those beautiful thugs from throttling everything around them. Plants are like other living things, competitive and aggressive – unless they’ve evolved as an association within a larger pattern. Then they become interdependant, and they don’t try to throttle each other, or at least not to the same extent. It’s quite amazing, but it’s definitely true.
So go ahead… take this unique gardening concept, and make it yours. Remember the beautiful natural plant associations you’ve seen, learn about them, and make models. Use my mother’s ideas, and develop them. Gardens are not like other, more permanent art forms; they are ephemeral by definition; they change continually and need continual maintenance, and when their creator dies, so, usually, do they. There is a limit to how long I can keep my mother’s garden alive. But if her concept survives, it won’t die at all.