A Beautiful, Purposeful Anarchy

My mum used to have a garden where heritage Turpentine trees reached to the sky, orchids clinging to their sides. The earth was covered in large leaf ivy, and camellia trees in reds, pinks and whites formed jewel like collars around the trees. Rambling and disused glasshouses ran down the back filled with decaying orchids from the previous owner. My mother is an artist and her garden was her gentle protest against an unimaginative suburban culture.

One couldn’t see the home from the street. My mum loved it this way, it was her recipe of believing in one’s own world with nature- she created and happily observed her own wilderness. My Mum sees this way of gardening just as valuable as the grand tour around the world.

The house next door was Mrs Pingot and her splodgy blonde Lab called Keith. I adored her garden; in some ways it was the ultimate wilderness garden. Within it was a confidence in not wanting to be perfect. My teenage bedroom window overlooked this anarchy. Both gardens were a visual sanctuary I could align myself with; everything was allowed to be itself.

Mrs Pingot’s garden made no apologies for being wild, and expressed itself with foliage; pink crepe myrtle limbs rambled around the house, casting long shadows. You couldn’t see around the corners and in a way it felt as if the garden propped up the house. Garden and house revolved around each other. It made perfect sense that Mrs Pingot was a writer.

When Mrs Pingot sadly for us left for other endeavours (love!) the home and garden were bulldozed, flattened, a dinner plate where everything had been eaten but not tasted. It made me cry. If I could I would have bought that house, it was to become an inadequate coagulation of suburban clichés.

These two gardens were about building their own worlds to stand unique and sensual, they inspired and guarded us from a conservative longing for green grass, mowers and controlled order. I regarded wilderness as the norm and a first love – it made me think of other worlds in my imagination and always inspired me to be myself.

It’s how I essentially see gardens to be, I like the sensuality, acceptance and vulnerability wild gardens have. There is a progressive sense about them but expressed in an organic way.

My experience of these gardens gave me a way to bring into being my own garden and conceive my still-life paintings here at Hill End, not that I knew that eight years ago when we first moved here.

Our home in Hill End was like a romantic love letter, a hybrid beauty that we were projecting certain expectations onto, in a very cold, long winter climate.

No power, no water, no bathroom, no garden. It had not been inhabited for fifty years or so. The 1872 miners cottages were an inch away from being gobbled up by the red clay soil. I likened her to an old lady who didn’t need a personality change, just a bouquet of flowers.

But would it all be possible?

The first thing I did was to start the garden in my mind. I firmly believe that whilst you’re talking the garden can be growing mentally or physically, because as we all know, renovations (especially heritage ones) can drag on and on.

I also knew that for my sanity the garden in my mind took priority, it would be where I could go and think about the future in seeds, planting, and colours. It was where I could practice chopping hedges to cultivate feelings of balance and acceptance for the really bad “I can’t do this” days. I needed these two worlds, gardening and painting, to revolve around each other.

My wild garden for me has become about sorting contradictions out in myself. I did not foresee this, but that’s what happened. It has nurtured me and taught me to be confidently vulnerable, to open up, to let things go, to really look at my world and question how and what I believe. I have now created my own beautiful wilderness here that has been strongly influenced by how I grew up.

In this comforting wilderness garden, all is reconciled. All is welcome and robust,the bronze fennel and love-in-the-mist seed contentedly, as do the weeds.

Artwork: Outside the little hedge leaves have become quite yellow – Genevieve Carroll (2011)

Main slider image: Georgina Reid