January 23, 2019

Caroline’s Garden Diaries 3.10.15 : Still Counting

Earlier this year, I started to read a book that describes a 30-year study of a garden and what is living there*. The author lists every plant and every animal in her garden and how the numbers have changed over all that time. I can’t count the hoverflies (her particular interest, so now at least I’m noticing them and their charming babies, rat-tailed maggots), but her account of recording all her plants made me go out, clipboard in hand, to start listing mine. What a job! In the first area, the “spinney”, 59 different species, from yew tree to wood sorrel; 48 in a bed that seemed quite small; and then, even in Annabelle’s bed – called after her because she seems to have taken over the entire space – there are actually another 32 species, very generous of her.

I’m also categorizing the plants according to how they got here; some planted by previous owners – in the case of the two enormous sweet chestnuts, by the Walkers of Sand Hutton Hall; lots planted by me, of course, but there are also several that have found their own way in; “spontaneous introductions” according to Owen. Now you would normally regard at least some of these gate-crashers as weeds, but as the book argues, if you’re simply counting what’s there, there’s no such thing as a weed – all are interesting in their own right.

Even though my style is to cram in as many plants as possible, it’s been a revelation to find how many species there can be in a relatively small space. I’ve still got several areas to audit, and then there’s the lawn; if I were to count the different plants in it, that would be another long list, and I just realized this morning, there are lichens on the pear tree…………

* “Wildlife of a Garden: a 30-year study” by Jennifer Owen: published by RHS


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