Choosing plants…

Aptly named Red Robin

It’s a strange, slow spring. In March, our lives abruptly stalled, hit a seemingly solid wall of time,  punctuated to the beat of a slow, confusing, fickle drum. The days seems slow, but where did March & April go? And the natural world has felt delayed too. A slow, cold start and then this sudden acceleration into a hot, dry spell and the transformative blossoming and blooming of new life.

Staying connected to the daily unfolding of life in the garden, rather than life on the Breaking News tv screen, is helping to keep me sane, calm, relaxed and grounded. I’m not sure how I would be without it’s daily dose of green therapy.

Acer & Fatsia japonica

I look around my garden and notice that, as the daffodils fade, the vibrant brightness of early spring yellow flowers is superseded by a rather dominant red colour palette (asides from the abundance of dandelions of course!).

Although this was more by accident than design, it is now a palette I am consciously working on complementing, through my subsequent choices of trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and annuals.

cooking apple blossom buds

But where on earth to begin in choosing which plants to bring into our daily lives? Our  choices can be informed by many different considerations, some which are fixed, others which are more malleable and subject to change.

Fixed considerations are site based  (location, soil texture, climate, aspect). More malleable are soil structure, our personal aesthetics, the amount of time we wish to spend tending our wee slice of Eden, our motivation (eg for food production, conservation, habitat creation, planting for wild-life, for climate change carbon storage, for specialist interest, for education…or all of these!)  and resources (money, plants, tools, time).

new berries in the making

Notwithstanding this current quiet time, our garden backs onto a busy road, with a thin shelter belt of mostly deciduous trees between road and fence.  I’ve spent a few years planting up the back fence wall with chunky ever-greens to function primarily as a sound barrier to the endless noise of cars; which despite much visualisation I have  failed to re-imagine as  ocean waves. Last year I added a second layer of shrubs; azalea, berry-bearers and lavenders. This year I am all about the native flowers.

viburnam tinus (I think!)

So far I’ve sown  borage, forget-me-nots, foxgloves, lupins, creeping thyme and bluebells (from Eigg!) for short, medium and longer term investment in the colour range for spring into summer. All have been chosen for the benefits to wildlife & pollinators; if we choose to cultivate a garden of primarily native plants, then these tend to benefit our native ecosystem best because the flowers open in time for the bees and pollinating insects to feed upon and thrive.

delicate plum blossom

Re-weaving the web in our own backyards enriches our lives beyond any human measure and helps build resilience back  into both our own lives and the natural world of which we are part. I notice I find it hard to stick to writing about any one subject in this blog, as one topic naturally leads to the other in the interconnections of ecological webs.

I often think that Rabbie Burns was probably a gardener too, with his keen eye to see beyond the human falderal. Seems quite pertinent for this time we are living through, with it’s endless noise & posturings from the dying patriarchs:

A Man’s a Man for a’ That       by Rabbie Burns

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that;
The coward-slave, we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that.
Our toils obscure an’ a’ that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The Man’s the gowd for a’ that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an’ a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man’s a Man for a’ that:
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that;
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.

Ye see yon birkie ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that,
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that,
The man o’ independent mind,
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

A Prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that!
But an honest man’s aboon his might –
Guid faith, he mauna fa’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their dignities, an’ a’ that,
The pith o’ Sense an’ pride o’ Worth
Are higher rank than a’ that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a’ that,
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth
Shall bear the gree an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s comin yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man the warld o’er
Shall brithers be for a’ that.

English Translation:

Is there for honest poverty
That hangs his head, and all that?
The coward slave, we pass him by –
We dare be poor for all that!
For all that, and all that,
Our toils obscure, and all that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The man’s the gold for all that.
What though on homely fare we dine,
Wear rough grey tweed, and all that?

Give fools their silks, and knaves their wine –
A man is a man for all that.
For all that, and all that,
Their tinsel show, and all that,
The honest man, though ever so poor,
Is king of men for all that.
You see that fellow called ‘a lord’,
Who struts, and stares, and all that?
Though hundreds worship at his word,
He is but a dolt for all that.
For all that, and all that,
His ribboned, star, and all that,
The man of independent mind,
He looks and laughs at all that.

A prince can make a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, and all that!
But an honest man is above his might –
Good faith, he must not fault that
For all that, and all that,
Their dignities, and all that,
The pith of sense and pride of worth
Are higher rank than all that.
Then let us pray that come it may
(As come it will for a’ that)
That Sense and Worth over all the earth
Shall take the prize and all that!
For all that, and all that,
It is coming yet for all that,
That man to man the world over
Shall brothers be for all that.



Published by theplothickens

passionate about permaculture, interested in sharing my experiences of designing my allotment using permaculture principles

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