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Thought for today - Blog Post 26/05/2020 Happy accidents

I have a degree in garden design and I have worked as a designer for many years now. I lectured in it for a decade before losing love for the way the further education system was heading.

Experimental (Lazy Gardening) Area LN
Experimental (Lazy Gardening) Area LN

Much of what I have always advocated and practised has been planned design, where an idea was formed and evolved on paper or a model and over time applied to a landscape. This system works, though a surprising number of iterations are often made before a final design is realised on paper and even more during construction and planting to create a garden in the real world.

As I have aged and my confidence and experience in the process and progression of ideas to reality has grown, I’ve stepped back from this idea of a formulaic pattern of working. Instead I have drawn more from the relationships of a garden and its owner, the landscape beyond and historically and allowed elements of it to find itself.

The area where this less formal approach to design most commonly takes my interest is in the successful nature of planting design.

There is no doubt that a designer worth their salt can design on paper a planted space that will succeed to a greater or lesser extent (normally greater), when planted up in a garden. Most truly comfortable planted scenes, for me at least, come where elements evolve into their conclusion rather than are prescribed upon a space.

Planted Sanguisorba and ‘happy accident’ Persicaria campanulata LN
Planted Sanguisorba and ‘happy accident’ Persicaria campanulata LN

Core structure may be applied in year one, with fleshing our beginning the following year and perhaps taking a a season or two to develop. Seed and bulb application to these Planting spaces helping to take out the regiment of planting that a human hand cannot help but to place on the plants it touches.

It can’t be used everywhere, but the evolving planting scheme works best for me where it can be applied. A willing client, looking to be taken on a journey is essential. The time taken to create is greatly elongated, but if you are expecting something to last a decade or more, perhaps taking a year or two to form is no great hardship for most.

The main success to this approach that I have experienced over the years is the ‘happy accident’. The moment where you find something that works that you would have been unlikely to encounter or create through your own volition. Magical, enticing things that plants can do when allowed to grow well, to flourish and to find their own way. This should never be underestimated.

A nursery ‘happy accident’ bed LN
A nursery ‘happy accident’ bed LN

I’m a lazy gardener. I hate weeding and always have. I now pretend that this is because I am experimenting with wildflowers and selfseeded plants to see how they will combine with those that I have planted. Sometimes it works and I keep it. At other times I am required to do the job I hate and extract a problem plant from a space so that something else may have its turn.

Happy accidents are not the preserve of the obsessive gardener. They are there for those of us keen enough to see things grow their own way and lazy enough to not want to weed unnecessarily.

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