This Week’s Guest Blogger is Colin Skelly, A Regenerative Horticulturist at The Eden Project

I would like to persuade you, in the 2 or 3 minutes you take to read this, that there is a lot hanging on the way we think about nature. There is widespread agreement that being immersed in nature from time to time is good for us. But the very sense in which nature is understood here implies that humans exist outside of nature. I want to persuade you that, when you think of nature in future, you should include humans in it – that humans and our activities are not separate from but are an intrinsic part of the great complex set of interactions of all living things on earth.
Our lives are integrated, intertwined, interwoven within the biosphere of a planet spinning around a star that provides the energy source for life’s existence. The strange modern way of thinking of humans as separate from nature arose from the industrial revolution and urbanisation. This placed much of lived human experience in environments shaped by human activity, in contrast to the wilder landscapes where human control was yet to appear paramount.
Yet we are rediscovering through the science of ecology, that there is no such separation. Everything that is synthesised by humans derives from rock, water, air or other living organisms. Plastics and fossil fuels – to name a couple of contemporary environmentally damaging products – derive from the human manipulation and use of the remains of life on earth 300-350 million years ago, namely oil and coal. Even the boundary between human and non-human in our bodies isn’t clear cut, our health depending on the microbes that live on and in us.
We need to return, from a modern perspective, to an understanding of nature that includes humans within in it but with an ecological sensibility that puts the relationships and complex interactions between all living organisms and their external environment at its heart.
Likewise, the relationship between humans needs to become more ecological, bringing sociology, cultural studies and environmental science together. This social ecology at its most basic is an awareness that our actions have consequences that shape human society, and that this shapes our relationships with the land, water, air and other living things upon which we depend for our existence. In short, without a more equally balanced relationship with each other, a restorative relationship between humans, other living things and the earth’s resources is unlikely to be possible.
What, you may ask, has all of this got to do with gardening? Well, gardening is a microcosm of the relationships I have been talking about, the human relationship with plants, birds, insects and your friends, neighbours and community. When you are gardening, think about how you are impacting your fellow living things, the earth’s resources and your social relationships. If we aim to gain in all these areas and to avoid losses, then we not only move beyond being sustainable (making things no worse) to genuinely regenerating our patch of earth. I will leave you to consider the wider possibilities and opportunities. All I ask is that next time you hear or use the word nature you make sure that you include us humans as part of the picture, not separate from it.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Marty Reville the Head Gardener at Kilmokea Country Manor and Gardens

5 of my favourites from 2020

The strange season of 2020 has drawn to a close, with a closed garden for most of the year, Kilmokea Gardens in the South East of Ireland benefited from more time for experiment.

  1. Calendula officinalis ‘Sunset buff’

A plant easily done from seed, initially intended to be a one year annual to fill empty spots has grown on me massively and will definitely feature for years to come. From containers to larger herbaceous borders it fits in anywhere to add something different. The pale orange petals on top with dark centre, the underside totally changes with dark lines adding a different dimension to the plant.

  1. Dianthus ‘Pinball Wizard’

A Dianthus that catches the eye like no other. Takes very easy from cuttings and will instantly create its own feature in any container. The close relation of Dianthus ‘Chomley Farran’ can be a bit too much for some to be spectacular but ‘Pinball Wizard’ is as easy on the eye as a red rose.

  1. Chrysanthemum ‘Dixter Orange’

A lovely Chrysanthemum that just keeps on going. Very little needs to be said on this one. Just put it in and enjoy it for as long as possible.

  1. Cobaea scandens

A climber I did from seed this year. A real showstopper in a sunny position. Will flower for a long time and if sheltered with the fortune of a mild winter will overwinter and continue to add colour with its purple and white bell-shaped flowers. Fairly easy to train up string or wire supports.

  1. Rhododendron ‘Cynthia’

Kilmokea, for those who haven’t ever visited, is quite a mature garden. Created from the 1950s onwards many of the older plants that include Rhododendrons, camellias, Eucyrphias and a huge selection of other plants have matured and now preform year after year without fail. One of these that in particular caught my eye was ‘Cynthia’. A nice size, roughly 2-3 metres in height and width, was covered in clusters in dark pink/maroon like flowers. A definite for any who are lucky enough to come across it.

For those of you who wish to see more from the Garden I manage and my own personal garden, please follow my Instagram page; thewexigardener. I became a head gardener at 25 for a 7 acre garden with many beautiful features and some areas for improvement, please go to my Instagram to follow my journey and feel free to get in contact. We welcome visitors from the 17th of March to the 1st of November with accommodation on site.