We are now all well aware that our water circumstances are irrevocably changed forever.
Water is no longer just expensive, it’s increasingly not justifiably available for something as secondary as gardening. And even if individuals have the means to pump water out of the ground, we have to be realistic – the resource is not replenishing and has a limited lifespan.
So where does this leave the gardener? Those of us who cherish beauty and also understand that by gardening we are abetting nature, connecting to a lifeline of positivity and adding to the health of the planet. I think it all just got a lot
Changed perceptions of beauty
Because we now have to work only with sustainable, raw materials in terms of water-wise plants – and with little water, increasingly hot temperatures, extremes in terms of drought and flood – we have to open our eyes and minds to a different kind of beauty: combinations of succulents, grasses and other dry-climate plants, more use made of hard landscaping details as a foil to the generally stronger look of water-wise plants, more gardens planted with trees and shade underplantings to cut down on water requirements. Above all, less lawn.
Perhaps we need to allow the gardens to have an off period, as they would in nature during the dry season – with understanding and acceptance, there is glory in the grasses turning blonde and the structure of the garden being revealed with leaf loss. We certainly need to be more careful about our plant choices and become unfettered by our previous preferences – there is a plant, indigenous or otherwise, to fill every visual and specific part of the garden – we just need to take the time to select properly.
Thus gardens will become more individual as a response to a deeper understanding of each site’s particular conditions and there will hopefully be less slavish reproductions of a “style”.
No instant gratification
No longer can one have exactly what you may be dreaming of, nor can one possibly have everything all at once. The system of creating a garden means that garden establishment may take a much longer time as one creates a space that can be more independent of our control in providing water.
Perhaps it needs to be installed over a period of years, section by section being planted and then weaned before the next section is tackled. We may need to plant smaller plants and learn to wait. We may need to plant for more shade. Our money should go into conditioning and protection of the soils with composts, mulches and water retention gels, more responsible and flexible drip-irrigation systems and grey-water systems.
We have to understand how nature works and try to mimic it as much as possible to ensure success.
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Text Franchesca Watson Photograph Heidi Bertish