28 May 2010

Born to be Wild (Part 2)

Besides, to those who are partial to a bit of wilderness in their garden, wild flowers are only invited guests of sorts, with conditions attached. Yet they tend to happen at the wrong time, wrong place, and be the wrong kind in looks or effect produced. In his quest for control and God-like omnipotence, man doesn't mind wild as long as it can be shaped into his ideal of wild.

Every Spring I used to have the privilege to welcome a couple of wild cardamine plants that gave my back lawn a touch of the prairie look in suburbia, but at the cost of causing a bit of a 'hindrance' too. Although I was happy to let the flowers blossom, at the same time I wanted the lawn to be mowed, especially after its 6 months of rest. I'd have to get out of my way to conciliate the flowers in the middle of the cut lawn.

Funnily enough I encountered the same dilemma with my daffodil bulbs (that I had previously planted, randomly, all over the lawn for that meadow effect). I could never quite wait until the total withering of the daffodils. I would lose patience over the constraints of a) the wild (cardamine) and b) the cottage garden look (daffodils). Wild meadows and the wild gardens recreated by man (using mainly cultivated crops) challenge the gardener in terms of geographical patterns, growth cycles, compatibility between neighbouring plants, soil composition and particular demands in terms of humidity or sun exposure levels. Furthermore, weeds, wild flowers and mad floral untidiness seem to be more at home (more expected) in the countryside than in suburbia, where tight rows of houses with handkerchief-size gardens command a fairly ermm urban approach to garden presentation.

Here at my parents' house in Corsica, you are surrounded with different stages of wild: the semi-wild fig trees and olive tree groves planted centuries ago, with some of them abandonned since, while others have produced rejects called oléastres that have gone to populate terrains and mingle with the indigenuous wild maquis of heather, juniper, strawberry trees, viburnum, green oaks, pistachiers lentisques, etc. The same applies to plants: introduced/ cultivated ornamental plants of the past (ex: irises, agaves) have now integrated to the environment with a life of their own. However others like the aptly-named griffes de sorcières (literally: witch claws) have spread in a parasitic fashion, impacting negatively on the local wildlife.

Now that I currently live in Corsica, my best daily walk with Tickle (my little dog) is not going to be down a man-made public garden, man-shaped park, managed forest or semi-wild canal embankment. Nature's magic unfoils unrestrictedly a few hundred yards away from my parents' house, down a path cutting through the maquis wilderness, a pleasant journey taking me through an ever-changing landscape of cistes, genista and strawberry trees, with floral enchantment aplenty from the eve of Spring to well into the Autumn: asphodel, euphorb, arum, wild orchis, convolvulus, lonicera implexa, scabious, rosa canina...

Tickle enjoying the Corsican maquis...

The best garden, the one that could ever bring me so much pleasure doesn't belong to me, it belongs to Mother Nature! Every plant has its place, its role, its shining moment, and in this harmonic symbiosis the weeds of our top paragraph have no or little existence... Only when there is an imbalance does a plant take over like a tyrant. The same applies to our human society, think about it.

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