WORDS: Grant Runyon
ILLUSTRATION: Jamie Leigh O’neill
GARDEN TYPE #1:
“The suburban dream”
This garden symbolises the modest aspirations of middle Jersey. Commonly attached to a three-bed semi, this tiny oasis promises an escape from the working week with a welcoming combination of lawn/laundry area, barbecue nook and low-maintenance shrubbery. Lovely! What could be nicer for your 2.4 children, mid-level finance career and affordable mortgage?
Unfortunately, the crushing demands of Jersey’s work/life balance mean that for many this dream is only a run of busy weekends away from a suburban nightmare. You will watch, powerless, as your dream garden becomes clogged with rusting bicycles and the grass grows long enough to transform your sunbathing lawn into a minefield of droppings from neighbourhood cats. Each Saturday you “pop into the office to clear some emails” is an opportunity for the unceasing forces of moss and dandelion to render your paving treacherous and the stares of your neighbours more judgemental. Don’t worry though, you’ll definitely sort it out – possibly over the next bank holiday weekend, but more likely when you retire in 2062 and commence digging your own grave beneath a gnarled thicket of leylandii.
GARDEN TYPE #2:
You may have given up on the “suburban dream” but that doesn’t mean you’ve ceded your outdoor territory back to the planet. If the forces of nature are refusing to bend to your will there’s another path to domination – the scorched earth option, the destruction of all that grows, the final mow. Call a landscaper who hates birds and bees and ask for “all the chemicals”, followed by extreme decking. Shrubs and flowers are pretty, but keeping the soil clean of weeds is backbreaking work – with a fully-decked patio space there’s more time after work to enjoy outdoor drinking and yelling at your kids. It may be true that your yard now has all the charm of a pub car park, but the time you’re not strimming is time you can spend looking at your phone or tanning until your skin resembles a pair of brogues. However, even if you’ve dumped a tonne of concrete over your former vegetable patch it’s wise not to assume that nature is completely vanquished. The cigarette-strewn space beneath the decking is now a friendly corridor for rats and the ideal nesting space for Asian hornets.
GARDEN TYPE #3:
“The Good Life”
Another type of gardener understands that we need not be at war with nature, that we can bend and flow with the seasons, and shape the world of plants towards an agreeable harmony with humanity. This attitude is symbolised by bird tables, a concrete statue of the Buddah and perhaps a discrete interest in “herbal medicine.” This garden offers self-expression and space for yoga/meditation, but also has a practical purpose in growing a selection of (organic) produce for the consumption of humans, wild birds and possibly some chickens. Never mind that the amount of work to produce organic courgettes in the home garden means they cost about twenty pounds a kilo, because this type of garden is inevitably a labour of love or literally a part-time job for one inhabitant of the house. This garden aspires to being carbon neutral, which has become quite difficult because the downside to reading The Guardian online is that you can no longer recycle the unread Sports section into eco-briquettes to char your halloumi.
GARDEN TYPE #4:
“The lawyer’s lawn”
Having your garden express your personality is hard work, so for some people it’s easier to pay a team of minions to express your personality for you whilst you’re at work all week. Then you can come home and entertain your many beautiful guests amidst perfect lawns, precision planting, and a range of tasteful yet understated outdoor amenities. Your friends will feel right at home, because all of their gardens coincidentally have the same chromed metalwork, blue LED lighting and lumps of granite recovered from older properties. It means that you have similar personalities, all equally original, even if there’s a bit of competition to be had over whose sexy hot tub has resulted in the most expensive divorce settlement. You cannot see or hear your neighbours, which is just as well because you’re all suing each other over a complex web of petty boundary disputes.
GARDEN TYPE #5:
“Get off my land, you filthy peasant”
A recent investigation by our halloumi-charring friends at The Guardian has revealed that over half of all British land is owned by a minuscule number of corporations and aristocrats. Although some of it (much less than you’d think) is used for farming this means that vast swathes of land are potentially subject to the same whims that the rest of us might get to exercise over a strip of yellowing grass or a few flower beds. This makes a strong argument for class warfare, particularly as the result is actually quite dull – unnatural grouse moors and sterile ornamental gardens are taking up space that could be used to grow food, or just house foxes and badgers. If you’re insanely rich the least you could do is do insane things with your landscaping – express yourself by commissioning fiendish hedge mazes, steamy greenhouses and meandering water features. I understand that these will generally be kept secret, like your tax affairs, but there’s no harm in inviting the occasional guest to marvel upon the leafy self-expression contained in your personal landscape. If they should fail to escape your devious hedge maze and be pecked unconscious by your collection of pet eagles; such a dreadful pity. The lower classes do at least serve as the most wonderful fertilizer.
Just as your home says a lot about you, so does your garden. If you live in Jersey the first thing it says is that you’re lucky enough to have access to private outdoor space – although our Island is a historically rural community we’re a long way from the days of even the humblest home having a kitchen garden and a place to store pigs. Today it’s a selling point if properties have as much as a wobbly balcony to call their own, and even if you do have outdoor space it’s possible that the only thing growing there is mildew on your laundry.
For those lucky enough to have them the garden is a place where expression can run wild, a fertile plot of privacy that may be trimmed and tweaked into whatever the heart desires. They needn’t be large, as window boxes can display more personality than million pound lawns, but even the smallest garden requires an investment of love and care from its human caretakers. There are also gardens (mine included) that reflect their owners less positively – in my case as a bramble-snagged memorial to failed ambitions and poor time management. My garden definitely says a lot about me and my home, but unfortunately it’s the equivalent of having a dirty kitchen that people can spy into with Google Earth. What does your garden say about you?
If you’re insanely rich the least you could do is do insane things with your landscaping – express yourself by commissioning fiendish hedge mazes, steamy greenhouses and meandering water features. I understand that these will generally be kept secret, like your tax affairs, but there’s no harm in inviting the occasional guest to marvel upon the leafy self-expression contained in your personal landscape.