Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The importance of water

When my parents moved into their rural idyll in Lincolnshire one of the first things they decided to do, before they even knew if the house was going to remain standing, was dig an enormous pond. Well, I say they dug it but in reality we went up there to dig it while they looked after my daughter! They were determined to have running water around the garden and the pond was to be the beginning and the end of a stream that linked all the different areas of the garden. Eventually it became apparent that on their Lincolnshire clay it would take more than spades to dig this pond, and mechanised equipment was hired to finish the job, and almost as soon as the liner was in and the pond was filled the change in the gardens biodiversity was there to be seen. Whereas there was always plenty of birdsong, suddenly there were pond skaters, water boatmen and dragonflies, frogs and toads and it felt like the garden was buzzing and tweeting and properly alive. At one point that summer we sat on the patio watching hundreds of baby toads crossing the garden, like an amphibious swarm, heading to who knows where to do who knows what. It was an extraordinary sight.
But that pond taught me a vital lesson and that is that water in a garden is important for far more than looks alone. Whilst water is beautiful, and adds another dimension to any design, it's real power is that it brings in nature. 
Now we all know gardening is about controlling and manipulating nature but I've been thinking about this pond a lot recently, and here's why; it turned a garden, a manipulated and designed space, back to a far more natural place. It gave the herbaceous borders and rose garden a feeling of being part of something outside of the space and linked it with the landscape. It softened formal edges and the hard landscaping of seating areas and pergolas. It gave sound to the space, with the trickling of water as it moved around the garden. It felt like a door had opened and let nature back in.
Next year it will be 15 years since we dug that pond and that garden is gone to me, handed on to others. But I want to do the same both in my garden and in my allotment. Increasing biodiversity in that garden made mum a great gardener because she allowed nature in to fight the pests and diseases for her. Along with making compost and adding muck, which funnily was often down to me to barrow about as grandparent duties called, as soon as there was an issue, nature solved it. The house was always full of ladybirds in the winter, hiding in nooks and crannies and ready to rush outside as soon as the blackfly appeared on the roses, and those toads swallowed any slugs before they had a chance of getting to the prize winning delphiniums! And there were hedgehogs that snuffled about in the dusk, eating slugs as they went and leaving the snails for the thrushes to eat for breakfast.
And so my plan is for the tiny pond on my allotment, at the moment choked with duckweed, to be the centre of my allotment flower garden next year. I hope if I clear it out and plant some aquatics in it, that it will bring in the magic that I remember and go some way to reliving the magic of that garden in Lincolnshire. 

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