Reflections on another gardening year

2018 was a year in which I’ve been lucky to be washed in an overwhelming “go on you can do it” from so many people. In the year I took my landscape garden design studio from a part-time passion to a full-time venture, thank you everyone who believed in and encouraged (and hired) me. It’s your support that made it all happen.

Evolution of the jungle

It feels like our garden has reached somewhat of a natural point of evolution. When Chris and I started it, it was the only land I had and so I crammed everything in: bonsai, meadow, tropicals, topiary. It worked in its own way but with my hands now in a number of other gardeny pies – for instance on my allotment I have a mini-meadow and two mini-prairies – I think it’s time for the neon jungle to really emerge from its cocoon. Next year I plan to stop kidding myself and embrace Club Tropicana head on. I’m thinking bigger, bolder, badder, pinker, purpler.

Start-up design studio

As of this week I’ve been commissioned to design over thirty gardens and I have some exciting new designs finalised and waiting to be constructed and planted in spring which I’m extremely excited about. I know I mainly talk about our garden on my blog but it’s the designs of private gardens now that receive my full attention and focus. I’ve intentionally gone into garden design without a set style, to let my head and hands lead me and it’s interesting to look back at this point and see a number of styles and themes from my work emerging. Running a start-up business is hard work but I’ve been lucky to work with landscapers, gardeners, nurseries and clients who are brilliant and fun. It feels less like work and more that we’re collectively working to create something beautiful. It’s very satisfying being in a profession based around a craft, I feel my skills improve every day.

Writing for dinner

I’ve been writing for newspapers and magazines on and off for twenty years now but this year is the one in which I felt writing came naturally and made most sense – I feel my writing is contributing to something bigger. Rediscovering gardening a little later in life was an epiphany for me as I hope is evident through my blog – I write because I love the things I write about and want everyone to experience a bit of the joy nature brings. This year gave me the privilege of writing a weekly column for The Telegraph under the apt title “Two Hours on the Veg Plot” which is the time I manage to allot each week to my own. Over 48 columns (14,400 words) I’ve explored everything I’ve grown in detail to help and encourage anyone to grow, even in the smallest spaces such as pots. The feedback I’ve received makes me happy and the joy of writing about plants that give so much is very special, not to mention slightly comical.

Wild and carefree

If there’s one thing I’d like more of in 2019 it is the opportunity to be back in the wild. Us Wallingtons were not made to be under a roof and this year was so busy I had less time for rambling woods, meadows and hills. It’s only now I realise I completely forgot to pop out and visit one of my favourite wild orchids in late summer – it completely slipped my mind. I thrive from my time outside, I can never explain why properly in words but it’s the distraction of seeing natural beauty and wonder combined with the slap round the face that bigger forces are at work, making little daily woes seem utterly frivolous.

Inspiration abounds

One of the great gifts of the gardening world is the generosity of other gardeners. I don’t know what it is but there’s something about a gardener that seems to make them givers, of knowledge, generous gifts of homegrown plants or access to their plots to enjoy their creations. This year is like no other, I’ve been welcomed into some memorable places that have not only been fun to visit, but have stayed with me, bouncing around in my head to further shape my own gardening adventures. Whether it’s how to grow squash better or entirely new ways of combining plants, I know my life is richer for the people I’ve met and places I’ve visited.

Experimenting with plant combinations

This year you may notice a shift in my thinking which I’ve only just appreciated myself. For many years I’ve been very focussed on how individual plants grow. I still am but my attention and interest has certainly moved on to how they combine with one another. Plant combinations have always been an interest of course but now I come to think of it, it’s one of my main obsessions these days and I think that’s a good thing. All of my time studying thousands of plants grow from seed to maturity helps. Most of my plant combinations are in the private garden designs I work on but you’ll see some of these trends and ideas emerging in my garden and on the allotment. I’m particularly interested in freeform borders right now where plants spread vegetatively or through self sowing over time. This makes for a far more complicated planting mix but long term I believe makes much more sense. A lot more on this to come next year…

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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