What on Earth is a garden?

Words are powerful tools. Ever since humans began to use language to communicate, words conjure up an image in the mind and therefore understanding. The word garden first appeared in the English language around the 14th century and is thought to have evolved from the old French word ‘Jardin’ from Germanic origins. An Arabic word ‘Jannah’ derived from one meaning hidden or concealed, was used to describe the walled plots of land used for cultivation in the dry desert conditions. Whether this is indeed the original source of the word is not known.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word garden as an:

“ enclosed piece of ground devoted to the cultivation of flowers, fruit or vegetables.”

Over the centuries gardens were seen as beautifully tended plots of land adjoining a house, large or small. Owners were proud of their plants, orchards and kitchen gardens. Indeed, even today, many are open to the public, including hundreds for the National Garden Scheme.

So, sadly, you may not own a garden at present. However, read on…maybe you do?
Back in 2008, during a contentious battle in the High Court regarding a garden, the Judge said that the definition of garden ‘is clearly now too narrow’ and ‘the reality is that no description will categorically establish whether a piece of land is a garden or not.’ The conviction was overturned, and the case dropped.
So perhaps the word garden should now mean many things, and with the increasing importance that villages, towns and cities play for wildlife, we should be making use of any space we have.
Whether you have a plot of land, windowsill, wall, roof, or only a few paving slabs outside the front of your home, you can have a garden for wildlife.
One window box I set up with two easily purchased plants this summer, attracted bees and insects, two spiders in residence, several snails, assorted moth species, a Painted Lady butterfly and Blue tits to feed on the little caterpillars that appeared. I suppose I should discount the Grey Squirrel who only visited it to dig holes?

If you don’t already have a garden, look around your home, and find a space for one. Be inventive, think laterally and over time at Wildlife Whisperer, we can all develop a wildlife garden to enjoy.
However, a ‘gutter garden’ may be a step too far…….

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