Friday, July 5, 2013

Making a Garden

This spiderwort is a pale pink and about half the size of the more aggressive hot pink specimen I have sequestered in a bottomless pot in the long border after allowing it to be a garden thug with its runner roots for years.  I also have the native, which is a beautiful blue, too tall and the most aggressive self-seeder; and the selection 'Concord Grape' with wine-tinted blue foliage and a grape juice colored flower which does not self-seed nor increase with runner roots and which I love, but am always in terror of accidentally weeding out in early spring before its mild mannered traits are evident.

Wednesday was my last day teaching summer school.  Now, I am free to garden.  I use the word garden in its loosest meaning.  Gardening is restorative, it's weeding and in my small yard a LOT of pruning, but it is also science.  It is analytical.  It is an applied science with a hefty aspect of design, art and performance tied together.  And it can bring the theme to the scheme of life, like those nasty little proverb plaques and books, "Everything I Know About Life (or "X") I Learned in (from) My "Y".

My latest tangent(s) is growing food ornamentally (and eating it), and collecting plants that are a bit different or unusual.  For example two of the most common blooming perennials in WI, purple coneflower and rudbeckia black-eyed Susan, are in my garden simply because I haven't taken the time to weed out that last plant of each.  I do have two other of their respective genus no where near common in abundance.

And part of it is making it flow together as one whole.  Dr. Apps and I have been having several conversations regarding what makes a garden and what makes a garden show-worthy and interesting.  We both have our weeds; they are a gardener's cross to bear, especially in wet years.  And, we have our pots of things for which we would like to find the right spot which we will banish to other spaces come garden walk time.    But, over the last couple years, I have come up with a few ideas developed more fully in the course of our respective garden walking conversations in our now mature gardens.

Garden design is there to lend an elegance to the space.  That space should reflect and restate the sense of place and style of its surroundings.  Just as a garden surrounds a house, the house surrounds a garden.  My iconic pink rose climbing up the white porch with the bright pink chairs and pale pink house...well you can see it in your mind's eye even without the classic picture I took this spring, can't you?

But it doesn't work for everyone, because they don't have my soil, my climate, and my tiny pink house.  Darrel has the same rose.  He grows it completely differently.  I'm not sure passersby even realize it is the same rose.

I have also realized good gardeners are discerning.  When we speak of garden art we both realize the pieces we would like to accessorize with are way out of our budgets (maybe not for Dr. Apps, but his wife Marilyn, fortunately for the rest of us, keeps him on a tight leash budget-wise when it comes to his garden).   Darrel would like to have a really spectacular water feature, even with the cleaning and maintenance headaches.  He has longish vistas in a prairie style and probably envisions a babbling waterfall/brook flowing into a pond with fish conjuring up the early years of the nearby state fish hatchery.  Myself, a bubbling pot would do-- if it was solar-powered-- and I could find the space.  Right now, my ever-popular "honey bee" bath is fine.

Garden art should add purpose to the space, whether practical or of a more contemplative nature.  As I expressed to Darrel yesterday when he did mention his two turtle that were "somewhere;" I'm perfectly fine with the stone turtle or frog that all but disappears when the rush of spring flowers gives itself up to the flush of summer foliage, but all the rest of that kitsch? No.

I did express a possible cute tongue-in-cheek of attaching antennae and two bobbly eyes to my privet hedge which although composed of many plants seems to be one long caterpillar-like shimmering creature in its freshly pruned state.  It is fun to make it wobble and gyre.  It seemed so alive and flexible to Dr. Apps, he suggested several pairs of (life-like) eyes looking out from the side, so as to freak out garden walkers who might notice them.  How many privet hedges have you actually seen pruned properly so as to have flexibility of life rather than the immovability of a cement wall which they are often called on to play the part?

In addition to purpose, sense of place, demonstration of horticultural principles, and ornamentation; a garden should have interesting plants.  When you go beyond what everyone has and lots of it, and demonstrate the habit and possibility of a plant the next gardener has not considered, or you have selected and are able to show how that plant can be grown, you take it to the next level.   Selecting a particular liatris for its habit or slightly unusual color, or introducing a plant grown at a higher elevation which can be an equalizer for its more tropical aspect.  Darrel has plants he or friends have collected all over the world.  He has the hybridized daylilies for which he is famous.  He has a keen eye for the chance sport, cross, or witches broom (some of which I expect he will take commercial in coming years).  These unusual plants are what makes a garden truly interesting.

Lastly, gardens aren't "ARE".  They are a continual process of being.  They change.  Sometimes the gardener is the agent of that change, sometimes not.  Gardens can be mature.  Gardens should not be stagnant.

Note: June, 2007, ceramic fish platter hanging on fence top left of center?

The same fish platter hangs in the same spot in this picture, top right of center, June 2013.

Both garden spaces bring/brought me equal joy.  Both reflected me as a gardener.  Both gardens exist for me in my mind's eye.  Is the garden of June, 2019 already there as well?  The garden is becoming what it will be and has always been.

The making of a garden is more than anything in the process, not the destination; and in the process is the making of the gardener. 

(Those of you who like the "Everything I Learned..." stuff: Kitsche-y garden art is akin to trashy prison tats on public skin; faces on trees are like wearing your Bluetooth apparatus to bed; ... and you fill in the rest!)

1 comment:

  1. Nice essay. I think we have a similar approach to gardens. Though I am not sure I know what a properly pruned privet hedge looks like. Like the wiggly antenna idea, you should post a picture.