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Neglected …

The garden has been sadly neglected this past couple of months.  Although it bumbled on quite nicely all on its own for a while, now the neglect is beginning to show – although the current spate of appalling weather didn’t help matters at all!

plastic bag blown into the bottom of the garden

Goodness knows where this carrier bag came from … certainly not from anywhere I shop, but it arrived in the high winds and it has lurked in the phormium for a few days now (sigh).  Every day as I go down to the studio I notice it, but I am so focused on what I am up to in the studio that even the carrier bag is neglected.

It is good to be playing with fabric and thread again, although somewhat surprising.  It was as if someone had thrown a switch and I moved from being 110% obsessed with the garden to being 110% absorbed in the studio.  Not that I am doing anything very exciting (Linda – Please don’t get your hopes up for a flurry of sketchbook pages!) Firstly I did some little scented sachets for a variety of Christmas markets then I was asked to do a workshop for local patch-workers, which will take place next January, so that has meant many hours of preparation, experimentation and boundary pushing – bliss. I am also absorbed in creating some embroidered fabrics for making handbags.

I am sadly happily an “all or nothing person” and my perpetual gripe is that I don’t seem to get the balance right.  Realistically I need to remind myself that it is not a case of either / or rather a case of and / and. It is OK to have a brake from gardening, so I may loose a few plants in the greenhouse to neglect, if I don’t have tulips in the Spring next year it is no biggie and it is absolutely fine to immerse myself in the studio for a few months because I know that come the new year, I will be chomping at the bit to be out amongst the plants once more.  The difficulty comes when I have my studio head on and someone asks me if I want an exhibition next year …. I reply “Oh, Yes please!” (beaming happily) then 2 days later the panic sets in as I wonder when on earth I will have the time to get together a body of textile work once the growing season is in full swing.

In the garden we have to think, plan, observe as well as actually do the business of “gardening”,  if we do these things, the garden develops and moves forwards, it grows and flourishes. So it is with the business of making art, if we neglect to think, plan, observe and practise our art or craft, it doesn’t develop and grow. Sadly, our abilities don’t remain static either but rather go backwards, drawing or mark making needs to be practised regularly to remain fluid and active.  You would think I would find it easy, to take a moment with a pencil and sketchbook and do a doodle or two in the garden every day, sadly I dont. Maybe it because my hands are always covered with soil, or perhaps because I find it difficult to simply observe the garden without jumping up to pull a weed or tie in a wayward plant – but most likely it is because I am so out of practise at drawing that I really dislike my sketchbook – in transactional analysis terms my “be perfect driver” has kicked in big time! So rather than do a “bad” drawing, I do no drawing at all!

So while I kick myself about being unable to get the balance right between garden and art in my life – as I write this I realize that perhaps it is not about balance at all, but about fluidity being able to move from gardening to mark-making without making a song and dance about it. Picking up my pen and paper when I notice a seed head that would look fabulous done in embroidery, pulling a weed when I walk down to my studio, combining these two important aspects of my life instead of keeping them separate and apart. After all – I did name this blog “An Artist’s Garden”!

The garden despite my neglect has wonderful colour just now, as the Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) is covered with flowers.  I always think of this glorious splash of colour as the last Hurrah before the winter sets in.

Red flower spikes of pinapple sage, salvia elegans in late November

16 comments to Neglected …

  • Such a thoughtful, and thought provoking post, dear Karen. I think you have found the balance, follow your instincts and do what you feel is calling you the loudest, but come back to the whisper now and again. And do get that plastic bag off the Phormium next time you are out. Just one step beyond taking a photo of it. The garden will thank you, even if it is being neglected at the moment. Good luck with your exhibition, too!

  • Ah the old balancing trick. Balancing life in general seems to be a task in itself nowadays. I find it hard when I’ve got a commission to just switch off I just need to get on with it and get it done even if the deadline is weeks off. It works for me as long as I remember to exercise and eat well but sometimes work is so absorbing it’s easy to get pulled off track. Your garden always looks beautiful in the photos I’ve seen and I think the true skill of a gardener is being able to create somewhere that can cope with a little neglect here and there.

  • Yes, from my perpsective it is about being controlled about being uncontrolling in what I do.
    I garden now in a totally eclectic way. A little bit here and a little bit there.
    No border is ever totally weeded or completely finshed.
    It is urgent most first.
    Design has to be done in same way.
    the imperative of the moment.

  • Balance is impossible, and I’m not only saying that because I’m suffering from vertigo (BPPV) at the moment. It really isn’t, but self-criticism is…. you’ve got to give things time to mature in your head, and if the garden isn’t doing that in an obvious way at the moment, I bet it’s simmering away in the background. It has to mulch… just like the textile work did earlier i the year. I’m a firm believer in giving things space….

  • Well first of all I am releived that the neglect is due to you being in the studio not something sinister as your opening lines led me to think!
    I think it is seasonal, it is hard to garden at the moment, the weather isnt helping and to be honest we all know that we wont do much now until February/March when the seed sowing starts. You need a break from the garden, to take a step back so you see it with fresh eyes and renewed enthusaism.
    I know that over the last two years my garden has been neglected due to the allotment and a lack of energy but once I found the time I saw it with fresh eyes and new interest. It is hard to focus on more than one thing so as long as you dont commit yourself to a craft show when you will want to be potting up bedding plants you shouldnt be so hard on yourself.
    I hope this read Ok as I have had numerous interruptions whilst writing it!!

  • I found your post really interesting! I too struggle with balance – not just in terms of finding time for gardening but finding time to all the things I want to do. I work in software development and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt from work is Lean Thinking and applying Limits to everything. My new motto is “I can’t be all things” and I just try to do one thing at a time. When I do that I find it easier to plan & do. It’s still hard though and I just did some night gardening this week to get all my jobs done! I loved it though!

    I absolutely love your Pineapple Sage by the way! Some things just thrive on neglect :)

  • “A last hurrah before the winter sets in”. This I could do with – my new, teeny, tiny garden tooted weeks ago.

  • Just enjoy what you are doing when you are doing it!

  • Dobby

    If you haven’t done it, I will remove the offending object from the phormium next time I am over!
    We had our first hard frost last night so am waiting to see what it has done to my garden tomorrow. Even if you ignore everything else, take care of the canna. I can’t guarantee mine will survive!!

  • We all feel like this at some time, I’m making jam today – not one kind but masses because its cold and wet and windy outside. I also needed to empty the freezer of all the fruit I put there as I was picking. I don’t really believe that you left the plastic bag after taking the photo, didn’t you? Enjoy whatever you’re doing and don’t feel guilty, it doesn’t help! Christina

  • There are times when other interests just have to take priority, the garden will wait, it will still be there in the new year, most of all – don’t worry about it. In the past, when I have had commissions, the garden just has to look after itself and it has shown me that it really doesn’t need me fussing over it!

  • I think you are experiencing the mind slump. Somehow you find yourself in a trough and can only concentrate on one thing at a time. That’s my excuse for my own inertia.
    The garden is alive and can survive on its own – art needs human input to exist so I think your studio needs you more than the garden :-)
    At east your Salvia is flowering – mine is so lazy it is still in bud – what a waste as we had a heavy frost this morning.

  • VP

    Don’t worry, the garden will still be there when your head is ready for it again :)

    It sounds like you’re having a wonderful time, regardless. Enjoy your muse!


  • Ah yes, the “be perfect” driver, I suffer from that one myself. I often wonder when being whole-hearted becomes obsession, but there is something glorious about getting lost in a passion, and I found reading about your studio time rather inspirational. I can see that the fluid movement between the two Grand Passions in your creative life would be desirable, but as I get older I realise I am far happier just accepting myself as I am rather than fighting it and feeling guilty. Maybe the rhythm of your years is always going to be split between the two loves, each getting their time in the sun of your attention, each giving way to the other in their turn. Parenthetically I have been wondering about planting a phormium in my front garden, and seeing yours makes me think I would really like to, though probably a purple one. Combined with grasses and other softer, waftier plants, I think they are wonderful.

  • I’m sure that your garden is not suffering from neglect Karen – remember that the very best of relationships can benefit and even thrive on time apart. Have fun in the studio and with the Christmas markets etc. whilst the garden waits for you to return. Aren’t those plastic bags a pain – we had to look up at one caught up in a tree for most of last winter – grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

  • Well,now all is back up to speed here at the garden in the West and I can read your post- what a good one. Its so reflective and very wise. Balance is so hard, and hard not to listen to other voices wanting exhibitions etc,hard to just let things happen,or not. Your sketchbook was always a joy, and the stitched bags sound so wonderful…..