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QGT GQT – Introduction

Over the next few weeks we will be running the Quiet Garden Trust Gardeners Question Time… Aka QGT GQT! You are invited to submit your gardening questions about what makes a Quiet Garden and how to design one. Each week we will then select the best questions for Patrick Swan, Garden Designer and QGT Trustee, to answer.

Submit your questions using the QUESTION SUBMISSION FORM section below.

But first meet your host Patrick Swan

Rooted in Gardens

Patrick Swan whilst Head Gardener at Arley Hall, Cheshire

Gardens are important to us.  To me this simple statement is something that is all at once unfathomably huge in its scope & meaning, but at the same time so basic and fundamental to (my) life as to be taken as part of the everyday. 

Gardens are important to us.  To me this simple statement is something that is all at once unfathomably huge in its scope & meaning, but at the same time so basic and fundamental to (my) life as to be taken as part of the everyday. 

Patrick’s own garden here at Edgiock Court.  A jumble of roses, apple trees & wild flowers, my own special place.

I’m very fortunate in that gardens are my life.  From sowing a packet of, if I remember rightly, Lupin seeds in the garden at home, aged 5, its been a passion of mine ever since.   Thirty years ago I trained as a professional gardener and since have had a full career looking after some of the finest gardens in the UK, and now advise the National Trust on their gardens.  This has brought me close to all sorts of gardens, large, small, highly designed, roughly hewn, naturalistic, old and new.  I have come to know and appreciate many styles of garden design and genera of plants, together with the skills & techniques necessary to craft a beautiful garden; there isn’t much that goes on in a British garden that I haven’t had to deal with at some point.  Just about everyone experiences joy at the sight of a beautiful flower, or a majestic tree, and when the elements of plant life are pulled together in an attractive design, it’s possible to create a living work of art to rival the very finest by any artist.  However, I have come to understand a bigger part that gardens play, a story to tell us, about the importance of nature and creation and how being close to this brings us closer to an inner peace and connection with our spiritual lives.  Gardens can be, for many, the easy and accessible route to nature; not everyone can climb to the top of Snowdon, but just about anyone can be brought to a garden, or a created green space.

Plas yn Rhiw, north Wales.  A National Trust property and one of my favourite places, a simple but beautiful & peaceful garden by the coast.

I believe that being close to nature is something that is intrinsic to our being and this has been recognised by many world cultures for centuries. I think it’s no accident that the beginning of creation as depicted in the Bible takes place in a garden and this use of a garden, as a means to bring us to a closer understanding of ourselves, has continued in many world cultures ever since.  This is very ably demonstrated in Japanese gardens.  These generally present as a meticulously fashioned scene, but actually aspire to something much higher than just a pretty picture.  The word for nature in Japanese, shizen, means self-created.  A traditional Japanese garden aims not to conquer nature, but to honour all that nature is, in its self-created beauty, shape, texture and the fact that nature is an ever changing, sometimes challenging space, but that ultimately that it brings harmony to itself and those who connect with it.   By creating a garden which honours nature, the Japanese believe the intrinsic harmony of nature will enrich their lives. 

This need to be connected with nature, with plants, trees and grass has been pulled very sharply into focus in recent months, with the Covid 19 pandemic.  The, so called, developed world has made great attempts in the last century to try and rise above our need for a connection to nature, supplanting this with a need for “things”, for money and achievement.  But when the chips are down our latent but not quite dead yet ability to be healed by nature kicks in.  With town centre shopping cathedrals closed, people have (been forced) to seek solace in their gardens or the local park.  They suddenly have time to notice birdsong, the smell of grass, the sound of a breeze in a tree canopy.  Even some of the most hardened worshippers of consumerism are waking up…

The orchard at Llanerchaeron, west Wales.  Another National Trust garden.  The tranquillity of green, lying beneath the trees.

I think the Quiet Garden Movement has a massively important role to play, now more than ever, in enabling people to re-join with nature and through this bring back a greater harmony to their lives and potentially a better connection with God.  This joining up of the natural and the spiritual creates the full circle in which we were meant to be.  I have long supported the work of the QGT, including co designing and building the award winning Quiet Garden show garden at the 2014 RHS Malvern Spring Festival.  I have now joined the Board of Trustees, to use my experience in creating gardens and bringing people to gardens, to help further the work of this organisation.  I aim to help us to spread our work to wider audiences, to those who might not yet automatically default to a garden for healing. 

I also realise that for many, creating and maintaining a garden can be a daunting task.  There may be those who wish to offer a space to be a quiet garden but feel they don’t have the skills to create this.   So another part of my offer to the QGT is to lend advice to anyone who feels they need a nudge in the right direction with how to create or maintain a garden.  A sort of Quiet Garden Trust Gardeners Question Time: QGT GQT… 

I’m hugely excited at the opportunity to be involved with Quiet Gardens and the new opportunities that we together can create for people to re-join with nature.

Patrick Swan


Submit your gardening questions about what makes a Quiet Garden and how to design one using the form below.

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