I don’t know much about garden design, but I do a lot of thinking about the general shape of the garden. Actually, it’s not so much thinking as contemplating all the things that need doing and then deciding I would rather sit on a stone for ten minutes and do nothing. I can get away with this by pretending to myself that indolence is creative, and hence useful.
The product of this thinking is seldom profound. In fact, the most profound realisation I can lay claim to is that gardening is usually about things that are straight and things that are curved, and that a lot of garden design, and indeed garden fashions over the centuries, boils down to whether you like to have more curves than straights, or more straights than curves.Most of the things that are straight in gardens are man-made, whereas there aren’t many straight things in nature. You could argue that the more hooked on technology a society becomes, the more the straightness increases. Rectangular houses replace round huts; arrow-straight roads replace winding lanes. And so on.
I’m lucky in so far as my garden has a lot of humps and bumps and hillsides, so I don’t have to look far for curves. But what I want to do is to create a kind of constant tension between curves and straights.Conifers are pretty straight, even here, where most trees take on a lean the moment they grow into the prevailing wind. So I largely depend on them to set off the curves of the grass and the azalea bed.At the end of the garden, there used to be a flat, dull rectangular space with a straight boundary dry stone wall. I spent a happy winter re-building the wall into a curve, trying to keep the impression that it had once been part of a curved structure, but at the same time seeking out pointed capstones to make it look vaguely Gothic (I’m not the world’s best wall-builder)The wall of the old mill is another permanent straight line in the garden, so it seems right that the scree bed parallels and reinforces it. The acer palmatum dissectum that I planted between the large stones has grown into a satisfactorily rounded mound to set off the rectangular blocks. In a couple of weeks it will become a glowing orange highlight.Here, I like to think the balance between the straightness of the house and the indentations of the grass, counterpointed by the trees, both straight and curved, is correct. Although those cupressus decurrens at the far end ought to go, useful windbreaks though they are.