In time – after watching and waiting – comes doing the minimum.
The weather has been far warmer than ‘normal’ for February – last weekend was warm, sunny, sparkling spring like weather – the kind of days we would perhaps dare to hope would come by the end of March. This untimely burst of loveliness pulled the plants and garden creatures forward with bumble bees and butterflies out and about, buds swelling on amelanchier, jostaberry, pears, plums and gages and early cowslips and forget me nots among the crocus and daffodils. The warmth and sunshine also drew me outside sooner than in previous years to do some minimal untidy-ing-up.
This consisted of cutting back last year’s remaining fennel stems – the seeds having almost all been eaten by this point in time. I have often seen blue tits feeding on them and this year the neighbours also saw goldfinches. I also cut off more old dead stems from sweet cicely, alliums, mashua, marjoram, mint and some other plants. In accordance with doing the minimum I literally move these materials the smallest distance I can and put them down round fruit trees as a twiggy mulch. As there was quite a lot of twiggy bits and pieces the mulch piles ended up quite deep – hence the untidy-ing-up aspect.
However the last thing either nature or I want is a bare, clean, ‘tidy’ garden. What we humans perceive as tidy, organised and orderly is, to nature and natural beings barren, bleak and inhospitable. What nature wants is ‘lumpy texture’ with lots of niches and habitat for all sorts of creatures to live in or to eat from and with building materials for the birds’ nests.
Even though I relish the practice of not controlling, of letting go and living with the uncertainty of how things will develop I have a lifetime’s cultural indoctrination of what gardens ‘should’ look like to contend with. I can’t shake it off but in the bigger scheme of things it doesn’t matter at all and anyway in a few weeks’ time there will be such an explosion of growth that these twiggy piles will become invisible amongst the fronds of fennel and sweet cicely and the massed forget me not and honesty blooms; and all the while the creatures and fungi of the soil will be wearing them away from below ground transforming them into new beings and fresh growth.
Principle: When you have to do something, only do the minimum.