In this new world of all things Instagram, I’ve become a little jaded with photography. I feel we’ve had photography overload: everyone taking the same style of photo of the same types of things, all designed to make something look better than it really is: more beautiful, more fun, more adventurous than reality. It’s all a bit fake, a bit stylised and really somewhat clichéd.
But I’ve also realised that the act of taking photographs is an enormously powerful thing. As I’ve focussed this year on capturing the garden in pictures, I find it very hard to believe I would have been able to see and understand it in the same light and to the same depth without a lens in front of me.
The spiders are having a field day right now, with cobwebs seemingly springing up between every available surface. And with your eyes, you can see the beautiful, intricate pattern of spun thread and think what a marvellous feat of wonder it is. But I seem to find it hard to really slow myself down and take the time to truly appreciate a cobweb, if I don’t have something holding my feet to the ground.
Without a camera, it’s all too easy to be distracted; to see something beyond or to feel pressure to ‘get on’ and pick up that fallen stick or freshly germinated weed. Once you are behind that lens, everything else disappears. It’s just you and the cobweb. You look at it from every angle, you look at it in different lights, you focus the lens on the very centre and then bring it back out to its full glory.
The camera means you spend time with your cobweb. You see a whole other level of detail, almost forming a bond with it, and then you capture it and take it away with you to keep forever, comforted by the fact it’s still there, unharmed and continuing its precious, short life.
With my camera I try to capture the Stipa and Agastache in the top border; both beautiful, healthy, perfectly complementary specimens. But I can’t quite find the right composition for the frame. They need to mingle more, there needs to be more height on either side of both plants. I make a mental note of how to tweak the planting once the wetter weather arrives.
At the end of September, it certainly feels as though autumn has arrived: all the muted, beige tones developing in the garden. And whilst I’m a fresh, lush, spring girl through and through, I seem to be gaining a new love for autumn that I’ve not experienced before.
Autumn has always been a time of dread for me. Of short, cold, dark days drawing in and of bare silhouettes: so much in decline whilst we wait out the long old winter for some signs of life again.
My camera has helped me connect spring to autumn. To see the graceful decline of that lush growth as all part of its cycle, of its well-deserved rest after putting its life and soul into blossoming all season. I’m not looking out with critical eyes this autumn; I see those same leaves, that I loved in spring and that have given so much, mellowing with age, preparing to sleep after an exuberant summer, getting ready to burst forth again with even more vigour than ever.
Whilst the plants are receding back into their warm roots, the wildlife seems to be stepping up a gear. Feeding, feeding, feeding, in readiness for the sparseness of winter.
I’ve had a few moments when I’ve been close to getting cross with the badgers, moles and deer, but they have a funny old way of redeeming themselves just as they approach that very fine line between love and hate.
The realisation that the moles are creating wonderful seed beds amongst the strong grass in the meadow, within which new flowers will thrive with reduced competition.
The badger may be digging up the lawn as he munches through the beautiful crocus bulbs I diligently planted last year, but with even more singlemindedness, I find him digging out the dandelion roots that were on my ‘must do, don’t want to do’ gardening list.
And our graceful family of roe deer, who so enliven the garden, whilst eating every last flower of Lythrum whilst we were away, have also developed a very keen palette for ground elder. Yes, ground elder. They are eating me out of house and home.
When we moved in, we had so much ground elder I didn’t notice if it was nibbled. But now I’ve cleared the vast majority, it’s a different story. I recently went out to remove one last section of it in the orchard, only to find no ground elder. Not one leaf. I might have thought I was losing it, but no, there were the stumps, all neatly nibbled and leaf-free.
Nothing else around the ground elder had been touched. Geraniums, ferns and Sarcococca, all completely intact. Ground elder is clearly the delicacy of delicacies. And if I can just keep it to a manageable level, it seems they’ll help finish the job off. I know from experience, that if they nibble regularly enough, just like a lawn mower, it will eventually kill the plant off.
And so, despite the odd moments of despair and destruction, we continue to live in relative balance and harmony with the animals. We’re glad they choose to call this their home too.
For the time, at least. Having visited Tom Stuart Smith’s garden earlier this month, my Plants-I-want list has got considerably longer and now the rains have commenced, I’m going to be planting like mad for the next few weeks.
There will surely be more words to be had with the animals, but my goodness, they’ve worked out how to handle me.
And in the meantime, I’ll keep clicking, both the plants and the animals. I may not be overly fond of Instagram, but it’s true to say that the basis for it can certainly bring enormous joy.
And just perhaps, focusing on the most beautiful, most fun and most adventurous aspects of our lives is no bad thing. If it brings us pleasure, educates us and leaves us feeling uplifted, how on earth can that be something not to embrace?