Researching the Cutting Garden


Recently, I have been doing lots of research about products that I might be able to produce from the cutting garden. I have been excited by the notion of untrodden avenues, opportunities to explore new processes and maybe along the way, lose myself in a creative bubble of play.

Walking a 10k Lavada walk this week provided me with lots of thinking time to muse over how the garden will work for me this year. The low cloud meant the path was very slippery, so much of the walk was spent looking down. If any of you have ever walked a Lavada, you will know that many of them skirt the very edge of a mountain, with little room for anything over a size 9 and sheer drops to the left. Not for the faint hearted or anyone scared of heights. So concentration on the path left room for thinking amid the sound of water gurgling cheekily towards its destination.

Thinking ‘creatively’ is quite normal for me, it’s like I have a thought bubble in my head that keeps expanding, filling up with more and more new exciting things. I would go as far as to say I am an ‘ideas’ person that can visualize quite elaborate projects. Most don’t see the light of day, but that doesn’t always matter.

That being said, there is a structured streak inside me that wants the path to be, ‘not too cluttered’. Navigating without too many u-turns would feed the part of me that doesn’t like untidiness. Yes it’s ok for a little while, but Christmas wrapping paper cannot be strewn across the the living room floor for too long, before the bin liner has to come out from under the sink. And so, my research path reflects the way I keep house, it tends to be overly neat, a little bit pretty and coordinated with a smidgen of, knowing what I want the end of the story to look like…not necessarily a good way to research.

It’s quite frustrating when the ‘tidy’ voice doesn’t let the ‘untidy’ voice to be heard…so this year I am going to make an extra effort to stop the arguments and just walk the path. Map in hand, compass for back-up and a high pitched whistle, just incase I get lost.

So what am I trying to say here? Researching and making decisions about what to buy or sow, is a slow process, takes lots of lists and to be quite honest, becomes a bit of a chore. On the other hand planting up the garden is easy. Once the plants basic needs have been met, full sun or shade, it’s a very intuitive process…nothing planned, this is where the research stops…the creativity takes over and the dancing begins.

I compare it to dancing because I would get the same feeling moving freely around a dance studio – Occasional pauses for breath, suspensions that allow me to feel the view and moments where i engage in conversations with other living beings; a rose; a sweet pea or a cabbage…they all live together in harmony…the planning never gets as far as the flower bed, the process is alive and in the moment.

I don’t see my chaotic planting method as risky, it’s such a comfortable fit. Like an old jumper that really should have seen the bin a long time ago, the process of planting up a garden has become a familiar friend. You know the type of friend where silences are not seen as awkward pauses, where fingers are not toyed with in anticipation of a voice.

So I am questioning – what is it about looking for seeds, ordering plants and planning colour schemes that becomes boring for me…how can I feel the same sense of freedom in my research time that I feel when I am sowing and planting? Not sure I have a concrete answer yet, just a wooly idea that is it connected to my dislike of shopping…it all takes far too long and gives me a feeling of disappoint.

When I shop I want the same sense of freedom that I get in the garden. Not to be censored by trends or ‘this years colours’ and this, I think, is my sticking point. I am not good at sticking to rules…not because I am a deliberate rule breaker, rather somebody that doesn’t like to be confined by expectations, especially other people’s expectations of how I should or should not behave…this can lead to me sometimes feeling claustrophobic in my own body.

On the one hand, I don’t want to be confined when buying my plant and seeds, and on the other hand, I find it annoying to have to flit between web pages, trying to find varieties of flowers that are just a little bit different. In the end I get frustrated and bored with the whole process and shut all the pages down…yes, I am incredibly impatient when it comes to shopping.

So I am trying to think differently about the whole process of researching and shopping for new seeds/plants. Likening the process to making the foundations of a house…I am telling myself ‘get this bit right and it will hold up a home for years and years’. I am having to shift my thinking and my attitude to shopping. If I want to get the roots of my garden right, I have to provide it with strong foundations.

As the walk ends I realise my research process comes in 3 stages – stage 1 is in my head and therefore has no boundaries, no confines, an ever expanding space of possibilities. Stage 2 is the place that halts my enthusiasm, my energy for a project runs out of steam because this is where the shopping has to begin. It feels restrictive and I struggle to get free. But once this hurdle is overcome stage 3 allows me to build my thought bubbles freely without censorship – my free child is playing.

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