What is a garden for? Posted on October 22, 2015

And when you’ve finished your garden, what then? We tend to dodge this question, saying that a garden is never finished; is a process rather than a place…. there’s always something to do. True if you are a collector, a plantsman, a naturalist or just a passionate observer. Most gardeners, I suppose, start with some sort of plan, or concept, or start to adapt whatever garden they buy or inherit to their idea of what is beautiful or useful. They go on fiddling. It never quite fits their notion, or their notion changes over time. They see something that inspires them or piques their interest, on television, in a magazine or at a flower show. They see a ‘gap’ and make the mistake of filling it: does it call for an urn, or a shrub with strident variegation? In the process, they lose track of their original concept, realise that football takes precedence over potatoes, or netball over roses. They eventually grow stiff with age, give up digging and read up on alpines.

The answer to the question ‘what is your garden for?’ eventually emerges. It is to fill part of your life not covered by work, or satisfied by news – or even by your family. Does it have a spiritual dimension? Poetic or artistic might be a fitter word. What it does do is make you pay attention to the routines of nature – which is surely an excellent purpose in itself

Hugh’s Gardening Books


Trees was first published in 1973 as The International Book of Trees, two years after The World Atlas of Wine….

Hugh’s Wine Books

Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book

I wrote my first Pocket Wine Book in 1977, was quite surprised to be asked to revise it in 1978,…

Friends of Trad

John Grimshaw’s Garden Diary