The earth spins, the seasons change and each autumn I look at the photographs of the cottage garden and wonder at its metamorphosis and my complete inability to impose any sense of order.
The basic structure of the garden is dictated by the landscape, the climate and my desire not to impede the view from the window seat in the cottage – beloved by the visitors to Croft Garden Cottage. I also have to remember that during the summer months the presence of the gardener must only be seen as a retreating figure when the visitors return after a day exploring the islands’ other delights. The relaxed, informal planting scheme of the garden is tolerant of this minimal intervention and often appears resentful of the intrusion of the gardener. At times it seems that the more I try to take control the more protean the garden becomes.
In June I described the garden as a riotous assembly but the cooling rain of July dampened its ardour and the borders became lush and green. There were the usual exuberant colour contrasts, but I have learnt to love the random invasion of orange from the escholzias and grown tolerant of the army of calandulas which dominate some parts of the garden. However, I feared my delight in the oriental poppies was probably to become an indulgence I might regret later.
Each year I nibble away a little more grass as the borders continue to overflow and I introduce a few new plants. This year the outstanding success was the Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum), grown from seed last summer, over wintered in the polytunnel and planted out in May. A stalwart of many Hebridean gardens (of any description) it took me a long time to get round to growing it. The brilliant white daisies seem to add the perfect counterpoint to the anarchy in the rest of the garden.
In August the borders often have a soft, gentle, rather over-blown, fin de siècle feeling, but this year the mix of aestheticism and decadence was in danger of being overtaken by a rambunctious, marauding mob intent on spreading anarchy even to the most sedate parts of the garden. Spires of Verbascum competed with the seed heads of the self-sown poppies and did battle against the borage. The aquilegias are obviously setting a bad example as the even the astrantias became profligate and sought to usurp the geraniums. Orange horned poppies (Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum) migrated through the borders but met their match with the corn marigolds. The salvias sulked and refused to flower again as the scabious grew tall and flirted with all and sundry.
Next year, will be different, but only in that some of the plants which self-seed will move to new locations, I will transplant some and others will just appear elsewhere or perhaps not at all. Some of the new plants which were introduced to the borders this summer will either die or survive the winter and prove their worth. I may tinker with the details or even introduce major changes, but the ethos will always be more “art for art’s sake” than the formal impressionism of Miss Jekyll or an homage to Piet Oudolf. Plus ça change!