Houses as Ruins and Gardens as Weeds...
Reflections on gardening by Swansea writer Julia.

So, gardening ...why do we do it? (As those of us stricken with garden-itis are wont to ponder at times).

What is the purpose, the aim?

Is it to promote the idea of survival of the strongest, maybe?

No, it bloody well isn't ....

Because.... when you have a garden only of the strongest, you don't have a garden at all - but a field: afield full of dock, creeping buttercup, nettle and ragwort- which, for the un-initiated, are usually the strongest in the UK's average environment of wet-clay soil.

I wish you joy of this if you like to sit in a space of such utter monotony - go for it . You won't have to do much - the strongest, as the adjective suggests, are quite capable of smothering all the weaker plants and ridding the landscape of all variety with little input from you. A gardener strives for the opposite - to limit the strongest - to promote the life of the less strong - to give the garden life and beauty - of colours and shapes.

If you don't do this you will have the strongest in your garden (the ones most fitted to thrive in the conditions of your garden)- but you will not have the most colourful, the ones that could enhance your food, the ones that could feed you or clothe you; the ones that could bring joy to your eye, your nose - the ones that will bring bees and other life to join you in your field. The strongest are not of these. Bees and butterflies will be rare in such a garden, as will birds and other creatures. And people too, as we love the beauty of variety - our eyes and ears seek it out.


Some of the most beautiful plants are the weakest or least fitted to the clay soil in the garden. Some of the most amazing are those which are bent out of shape by the wind that has blown on them - but they are beautiful still.

Human species, back in the day, did not any longer have to wait to evolve to fit their environment, they had developed the hands and the thinking and communication ability to work together to change their environment to fit them: part of this was gardening.

Other animals can do this in a limited way, of course - we evolved from Nature, we did not arrive from another planet. However, humans can change and develop any environment - we are not limited to making a web or damming a stream .

So we noticed certain plants that we needed, others which brought animals into an area; their seasons; their needs to thrive - how they interacted, how the species balanced each other. We planted - we harvested - we encouraged maximum diversity to support our lives - which depended on others; we worked to promote maximum diversity. Indigenous people husbanded their environments - with taboos on culling certain species for times of year, for example, to allow recovery of numbers; the burning of areas to promote new growth ; the planting of certain species to promote supply. It wasn't called gardening, it was probably called 'living'.

Creation myths often include references to planting and gardening - it was part of our beginnings .

Then capitalism arrived and decided all the taboos etc were just so much superstition and could be dispensed with - how could people with darker skin possibly know something the empire builders didn't? If you are invading another country you have to believe in your own superiority.... So the savannah was covered in dead cattle and the Tsetse fly was discovered by whitey not to be a superstition after all, and the bison nearly became extinct as bio-diversity dived.

Much of the knowledge was lost as indigenous societies were destroyed, just as our own knowledge of the land and plants was lost during the clearances which drove us off it and destroyed our communities and connection with the land.

When invaders or latter day businesses drove people off the land, the bio-diversity began to fail, when it wasn't deliberately destroyed to make way for the vast acreages of monoculture cash crop, so beloved of crop pests and pesticide companies. Natural controls were lost or destroyed. Never mind the death rate of locals.

With monocuture, life become less tenable - the interdependence of species -including our own - is broken - but each cannot live without the other. Allow only the 'strong' to survive and you get a monoculture and less life - less of a network.
Viruses thrive more easily as there are vast tracts available to any virus which 'fits' a monoculture, with no barriers or natural controls.

There are so many ways to be 'strong' and nothing is strong on its own .The current definition of 'strong'- as applied to humans in this system we live in now - tends to be 'able to do violence'. This system needs war to grab new resources and markets, needs warriors and a toxic view of masculinity which it defines as strength, but which is in fact quite pathological and limited. The strength of compassion and the ability to help others are discarded in a society driven by the greed and need for war of a few. Boys get told not to cry in societies which need conflict, and need people to die and kill in those wars.

Any sane society would nurture the individuality of all - not hammer people into fitting the roles required by expansion of business and empire.

In a garden, I work to make sure the 'strongest' - whichever plants are the strongest in a given garden/environment - does not smother the others. I don't want a garden full of one plant which just happens to suit the soil and conditions of my garden : the strongest.

In a garden based on clay -the strongest will be the nettle.

In a society based on greed then the strongest will be the greediest.

They will rule .

Racists want the opposite of a beautiful, various garden- they want us to be defined by their monoculture, their boring ideal: a field full of nettles .

There are many more important reasons not to hang out with racists and fascists, but one must be because they must be truly awful gardeners, with really boring, lifeless gardens.


Find about Julia's book 'Making Room' here