Intro: When is a weed not a weed? When it’s a welcome guest that’s providing a valuable function in a garden. Jenny Lowe tells Dawn Kennedy why weeding is a waste of time.
Copy: “Weeds are wonderful,”says Jenny, a classically trained landscape gardener who calls herself an “Earth Artist” and is set to become the Jamie Oliver of gardening.
She has spent the last seven years creating a contemporary Eden in her five-acre garden. “We’re always searching for paradise but paradise is right here,” she says, gesturing towards the garden.
The land was previously part of a vineyard and when she acquired the property, the topsoil was depleted. However, 40 established trees were a compelling attraction. “You can’t make a big tree for love nor money.” Jenny has since planted an additional 200 trees.
Her first step was to remove any big trees that were choking soil and space. These were chopped and left to compost. Next, she demolished an old staircase on the property and used the granite blocks for terracing the garden.
Jenny uses what she calls s a slow gardening process that begins with building up the soil. She says, “The first step in any garden is mix compost into the soil and next to encourage the proliferation of weeds, which, once grown, are slashed and left as mulch on the ground. Soil must never be naked. It wants to be protected. When I see bare soil, I shrivel inside. Cover it up with anything.”
For jenny that means planting what are conventionally considered weeds. “Weeds are like little solar panels, capturing energy from the sun and fetching nutrients from deep in the soil. Weeds attract aphids and snails, which in turn attract secondary predators like reptiles and frogs. The role of a gardener is to establish a perfect predator prey cycle. Once this is in place then you can just allow nature to take its course.”
Jenny graduated as a landscape gardener from UCT. She then worked for the most highly respected people in the business – Wym Tamens, Anne Sutton and Francesca Watson. As a commercial gardener, she felt restricted by bottom line and budget and after eight years felt creatively smothered. “Commercial landscape gardening trained my logical mind and gave me practical skills. However, I needed to immerse myself in magic and creativity. I put down all the books and magazines, refused to copy and decided to live by my soul.”
For the last seven years, Jenney has been happier than ever before, raising her three children and building Eden in her back yard. “I’m an artist and I’m crazy about nature. My work is about allowing nature to prosper within an artistic format.” In her garden neat pathways carve through untamed growth. There’s a sense of abundance. Every so often the eye is hooked by a statue or object placed thoughtfully for contemplation.