Guardian-ing with Mary Reynolds

“We are only brief guardians of these portions of land we call gardens. We do not and cannot truly own them. Our bodies are made of the Earth and return to it eventually, but the land will always remain alive.” – The Garden Awakening: Designs To Nurture Our Land & Ourselves.

Around the spring of last year, I remember looking out my window at someone pulling out wild flowers to replace them with “pretty” garden plants; plants like petunias, begonias, daffodils and geraniums, which are lovely to look at, but, not what wildlife needs. I remember the frustration for the way we garden, and for what we’re not getting. How gardens are mostly designed to serve people, and not the wildlife that’s above, below and around us. And how the magic of wild places is rarely allowed in.

But I also remember thinking about nature activist and reformed landscape designer Mary Reynolds, and how much I wanted to meet her someday, and thank her for what it is, she is saying and doing for nature. This was because I’d heard a new film was on the way; Dare to be wild, about Mary’s gold medal at the 2002 Chelsea Flower Show, in which she created a supportive, nurturing garden to remind people of the importance of wild places.

The “Thank you” happened! And about one year later, thanks to a Mary Reynolds Talk at the Secret Garden Café on Saturday, 29th April. The talk was organised by Galway NGO Transition Galway and the turnout was amazing!

Mary shared an excerpt from her book, The Garden Awakening: Designs To Nurture Our Land & Ourselves, which is about her work and includes landscape designs for small gardens in an effort to show people that her designs may be applied to even the smallest of spaces. With every design, Mary’s book pushes open the boundaries of modern-day gardening, and guides us into a new relationship with nature, and with ourselves as guardians of the land.

Mary not only shared life experiences and inspiration for her work including her Brigit’s Garden project, film Dare to be wild, and book The Garden Awakening, but also expressed enormous concern and heartbreak for the land; for what we are doing to the land (e.g. the use of pesticides), and to ourselves. She believes we are “fighting against nature the whole time” and need to go back to working with nature if we are to reverse the damage and restore the land, and all of its inhabitants, to full health.

Mary encourages us to find our own relationship with nature, grow our own food, and use her designs as inspiration for our pieces of land. She is currently creating a “living version of her book” as she is in the process of building an alternative garden centre for people to live, learn and work with her. Mary is also working with her local GAA branch – they will be using her natural herbicides instead of roundup; a widely used Glyphosate-based weedkiller, on their pitches.

For those of you who would like to join or carry on the conversation with Mary, there will be another event in Clarenbridge on Saturday the 16th of September, which is being organised by the Clarenbridge Arts Group.

What Mary is doing for nature, through her love and connection to the land, is hugely inspirational, and I am very grateful to Transition Galway for organising this event, and for having the opportunity to say

Thank you!

Gold at the 2002 Chelsea Flower Show!

The Garden Awakening TEDxWexford:

Mary’s book:

The Garden Awakening: Designs To Nurture Our Land & Ourselves

Mary’s website:

Mary’s facebook page: