I think the main reason I like gardening so much is the energy and feeling I get from creativity. From that first experience of finger painting at nursery school and through the myriad of projects I have taken on there is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when I create something I am happy with. I think we are hard wired to be creative; certainly the ultimate act of creating another life has to be my most significant achievement. Nurturing, educating and caring for another life as it grows is awe inspiring. I wonder if the urge to make things is in some way related, coming from the same fundamental source?
I do have hobbies other than gardening, I need something for the winter months, and embroidery is my choice of poison. In many ways the antithesis of gardening and a hobby that a good deal of the people I meet are surprised by. The gender thing always rears its head and I know sewing can be considered unusual for a man and it is no good telling people that the fishermen, a big tough manly breed have to sew their nets or that Egyptian hieroglyphs show men using sewing needles thousands of years ago.
I just say yes it is a bit girly but hey I’m in touch with my feminine side. My dad did embroidery, some of his work you can see in Guildford Cathedral. He learnt to embroider when convalescing from TB; it was part of his therapy. Incidentally that’s where he met my mum, she was a nurse, I can just imagine those romantic walks round the park as dad coughed up phlegm and mum rubbed his back, well may be not that romantic. Anyhow mum did embroidery as well and so did her mum and so did her mum and I’m pretty sure her mum as well. I have a collection of embroidered pieces from at least 4 generations, some are pretty faded now but as I am the youngest of three boys someone had to carry on the tradition.
Embroidery relies on precision, I use canvass most of the time so there are restrictions of geometry, and it is very time consuming as I am often dealing with the minutia of a single stitch and most of the time it is dealing with colour choice. Gardening is so different, you don’t have the control as you are reliant upon weather, soil condition and climate, for me the expanse of my garden makes it impossible to deal with the minutia there are so many random factors, I can’t control the environment, I don’t even try I have to work with nature and I am not the creator I am the facilitator.
However I do see some similarities, the garden is divided up into a grid, I don’t remember this as an intentional strategy but one that naturally evolved. I do love intricacy with my embroidery and I see some of this reflected in my planting, trying to weave different plants in together to form a living tapestry. A living tapestry yes that is where these two hobbies meet.
I have been inspired by a sculpture garden near us, it used to be nearer in Goleen but they left for Glengariff further up the coast from here to establish one of the most well known gardens in Ireland. The Ewe Experience is not really a plant garden, even though I do like the plants, it is more an environmental sculpture garden. Sheena is the artist, as mad as a fish on a bicycle and a wonderful soul and her partner Kurt, who comes across as a grumpy Viking but has the discipline to follow through on an idea and some amazing ideas to. If you ever get to Ireland you have just got to visit.
So I fancy having some sculptures in my garden too. I have tried carving out a couple of dead trees in the old orchard and I recently made a giant dream catcher as I like to dream big. I am hoping to add to my collection of stuff in the garden and I am hoping to be inspired with some more ideas. I want my garden to be a creative space which inspires me to be creative. I think I would like to build a giant dragon in the big field and plant the body with flowers, maybe I’ll borrow a concrete mixer this summer and start work on the head, now there’s an idea.