Brambles are, in a sense, incredible warriors!

  • 4 February, 2010

Country EstateIt struck me, when in a position of being somewhat powerless over a circumstance at work, that I found a renewed zeal for my allotment.

Some of this I’m sure was to ‘dig out’ my frustration, but on reflection I wonder if the planning and structuring of my allotment was a subconscious desire for order.

I wonder how much our life situation relates and reflects on our need to control or place order on our environment, in turn allowing us a feeling of regaining our power by taming the wild.

Of course, the fresh air, exercise, centring of focus, time for reflection and the hopeful and optimistic feeling gained from planning and working towards a fruitful future are all part of the joys of allotmenteering and, I’m sure, are all factors in why we have allotments apart from production and yield.

In gardening for instance though, I’ve always been interested in the strength of the desire to create a tidy edge and have a clean path, and when ‘weeding’ have noticed that the more clear of ‘weeds’ it becomes the clearer we seem to need it to be.

Most Human Beings, in my opinion, by nature (or at least in our age) have an overt desire for cleanliness and/or tidiness. This is not something in my experience found in the way the landscape behaves, at least not on the level that we are dealing with it. There is I am sure an immense order in the structure of a forest, but to our eyes a bramble is wild.

It is interesting how our language changes around this, with the bramble being a good example. If the bramble Rubus fruticosus is acceptable in its setting it is called a blackberry. If it is unacceptable, and therefore a ‘weed’, it remains a bramble.

A weed, by the way, is merely a plant that is not in the desired place or, as the Oxford Dictionary would have it, ‘wild plant growing where it is not wanted’.

When one works a lot in the garden environment one can start to have a kind of dialog with plants. By dialog I mean that one can become appreciative of a particular plant’s traits or characteristics, what it’s good at and how it responds to interaction.

The bramble is again a good example. Brambles are, in a sense, incredible warriors. They are tenacious in their advance, reaching out and layering (taking root, when in contact with soil) with the tips of their vigorous shoots, growing tremendously hard and sharp thorns and clinging to their territory with great strength by way of their root system.

One cannot help respecting them for being great at what they do.

I have a rule when working with the land that, it is not acceptable to work in anger. If I am working in anger, I have stopped listening to the land. And in this, I have lost respect for and sympathy with my surroundings.

Brambles, or for that matter, nettles, hog weed or goose grass, to name but a few, are not ‘bad’. It is we who commandeer more and more land as population grows, whether this be in the form of an office block, a car park or for residential use.

Sometimes we act in our gardens as if the bramble, or pretty much any other wild plant for that matter, has a personal vendetta against us. Yet it is us who encroach, advance and strive to ‘clean’ the natural environment.

If one looks at ‘weeds’, they don’t take over as we seem to think. They will be prolific in an area perhaps but then will give way to another plant which is slightly more suited to the setting, creating swathes.

On our micro scale of gardening we can lose touch and sympathy with this and because we have a restricted plot in which to create order we often leave no room for disorder. Or put another way, we mistake what looks like disorder for that which is natural harmony.

It is, I know, a difficult conundrum of what to do about the growth of population and the strain on the land. Of course we need shelter, homes and industry. I would just urge anyone to relinquish their borders a little to the wild. Spare a wild plant for an ornamental. Allow the native bio diverse insect and bird supporting ‘weeds’ a chance to do what they do best – supporting our precious environment. And finally, allow a bramble the status of blackberry in your garden.

Over and out for now! A