It’s a sombre time in the UK as most of you will be aware.
Perhaps time for us gardeners to think about reflection in our gardens.
Whatever various worthy people might like to tell us, gardeners know that a garden is not simply a place of restoration and healing joy. Gardens fill us full of worries, disappointments – and battles with those creatures we can no longer call ‘pests’ but which challenge our efforts daily.
And should we sit down, glass in hand, for a few minutes of quiet reflection, we are quite likely to spot a weed, a loss, or a mole hill.
So peaceful reflection perhaps requires something a little extra and we did make a space in the garden which is intended to make this quietness easier: the Reflecting Pool.
Which, of course, has physical reflections and is a place which you might think lends itself to reflection. There is not much opportunity for weeds and perhaps not much work to be done, apart from cleaning the pool out once a year and keeping the hedges cut.
Initially it seemed impossible to think of making such a pool, especially since there is really nowhere that the garden is flat. But one of the spaces (they get called ‘garden rooms’ of course) created by our yew hedges was only slightly tipped, sort of crosswise. The biggest trick is that I realised that for reflections a pool doesn’t need to be deep. So we had it made six inches deep.
This reduced the weight of water dramatically. When making a pool you have to consider how heavy water is, or disaster will certainly follow. Charles built us a different pool, above the terrace, and was saved just in time by a chance visit from an engineer, who warned him that he needed to reinforce the pool. So the pool below is entirely wrapped in reinforcing mesh, which I trust is not rusting.
Because we sit right below it – it is to the left of this drinker, behind his reinforced wall.
Snakes like it!
Anyway, that is not the relevant pool. That one was originally for the inevitable wild life and fish, which did not get on well. I’m currently telling you about the Reflecting Pool. No fish. No wildlife, except flies.
So the Reflecting Pool is shallow, and the area supported by a relatively modest and affordable retaining wall.
To create the reflections we add a black dye. It’s essential for the reflections, and as a bonus it helps keep it fairly free of algae. It’s a food dye and perfectly safe – we use it in the bird bath too and birds happily drink the water and also bathe in the water. Those are quite disgusting habits to combine, but the birds thrive, and can be seen belting round the garden all day. I’m happy to report that visitors often remark on the happy birds.
The Reflecting Pool is too deep for bird dipping though, and only pigeons play in it, leaving horrible slicks of grease on the surface. Sigh: even here we can find unpleasantness and sometimes disasters. What did I say about gardens? (Though swallows bomb around above, catching the flies. Huzzah.)
Surprisingly, when we have visitors, this is the noisiest part of the garden – there is something about the hedges on one side of the Pool Garden that makes people play. Which is hard luck on anyone fancying some quite reflecting time. They need to slope off to the woods then for that.
But here’s fun:
Reflective water is a beautiful thing, especially in sunshine. Though you do need to consider what your pool will reflect before you build it. A stray telegraph pole or the local cement works can be distracting. Blue sky possibly helps the magic, so do organise that.
But I do know we can’t all have a great big pool for our reflections. Birds dominate a bird bath, but they do add to the charm. And when they are not bombing around, there you will find reflections are to be had.
With small children around, you may prefer to do without water.
There are many ways to reflect.