bad gardener?

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David Austin English Rose in the rain today

Recently Fine Gardening has featured my Chester County garden in their online Garden of the Day section.  That has been such a thrill and honor for me because…well…I have been sending them garden photos for years. They have been a gardening resource forever, and I subscribe to their print magazine.

Fine Gardening is a go to resource for information, new cultivar suggestions, and all around inspiration.

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I can tell you I purchased this from Applied Climatology at The West Chester Growers Market a couple of years ago.  The tag has long since disappeared.

Well Fine Gardening most recently featured some of my daylilies and hydrangeas together.  Naturally it provoked a conversation with the editor I was working with over cultivars.  I can tell people the names of a few of them like Cherokee Star because I planted some particularly well loved cultivars in clumps of several plants. (Well exception to the clump rule were the $5 pots of mystery daylilies from Home Depot end of summer sale a few years ago! I still don’t know who they are!)

When asked about my daylily cultivars, this is what I told them:

OK, you know where I am a really bad gardener? I see things and I think to myself, “They are perfect,” and then I forget what the cultivars are. I can tell you who I purchased all the daylilies from plant by plant, but as far as cultivars, I am so bad. I am going to have to start writing things down.

I try to plant everything with the tags, but as time progresses and I add more shredded leaves or wood chips for mulch, they disappear.

The thing about daylilies is that I buy them for the color. They don’t get purchased because they are rare or anything like that per se; it’s based on the color. I love white daylilies, but my obsession the past few years has been the reds. I also like the pink and the ruffly daylilies depending on the color because they look so ladylike. I don’t know how else to describe it.

Every once in a while I will pick up daylilies on clearance from a big box store to plug a hole, but for the most part I spend the money to shop from nurseries I know because then I’ll avoid things like daylily rust.

Confession time: I do this with well….the majority of plants. I buy plants for how they hit me when I see them.  And that is in person or in a magazine or in a plant grower’s inventory photos.

To me, right or wrong it’s the visual. Color. Texture. Shape. Size. How does the plant strike me? My poor hostas are also victims of garden anonymity.  They live happily in plant witness protection services with many of my other shrubs and perennials.

I always have good intentions.  I plant new thing with their tags.  But then I either get tired of a forest of plastic tags, or I decide I will always remember their cultivar and yank them out, or they get buried by seasonal layers of mulch and applications of fallen leaves. And then there are the plastic tags that chipmunks and squirrels dig up and relocate (oh yes they DO do that!)

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Hydrangea “Little Lime”

This is where I am a bad gardener to some. But you know what? I have been through plenty of gardens, including European ones and  I see tags for rare specimen trees and some shrubs, but not tags for much of anything else. And for the most part, I do not like looking at plastic nursery tags and I do not have the time or inclination for pretty write on copper ones.

It is what it is. I created my garden because it brings me joy.

I look at what I plant much in the way an artist looks at something for subject matter.  It is also very visceral. I look at something and can visualize it in a spot in the garden and then I plant it.  Truthfully it is almost a kissing cousin of the techniques people who are practitioners of Shamanic Gardening. And I didn’t intend it to be.  It’s just what happened.

Shamanic Gardening? What’s that you ask?

Shamanic Gardening integrates sustainable ancient and traditional gardening methods with shamanic principles and modern permaculture. The practices, history, myths, recipes, and philosophies inside this book will enhance your relationship with nature, sustain the earth, delight your senses, and nourish your soul.

Shamanic Gardening [book] includes a cultural history of sustainable gardening, including gardening techniques used by Cleopatra, the Japanese, the Pueblo Indians, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and many others.

I learned about the theories of Shamanic Gardening from Melinda Joy Miller’s book Shamanic Gardening. You can find the book on Amazon and other places.

As a theory, it sounds new-agey.  To an extent it is. It also fits in with the principles of Feng Shui. (See Shambhalla Institute and NO I am not one of their clients or practitioners. I just went ‘web wandering as I was reading the book out of curiosity. But heck even the esteemed British Royal Horticultural Society has been interested in this or they would not have sold the book.)

The reason I delved into the book were funny little things like they say to essentially ask the plant where it want so go.  Any rabid gardener will tell you we all talk to our plants…and weeds.  It’s just a thing. But because it also reminds me of using the principles of feng shui in gardens. Yes really. (Read more here.)

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Echinacea “White Double Delight”

Anyway back to bad gardener of it all. Since my garden has been in Fine Gardening there has been interest in my garden for local tours. That never happened before.  My garden is a layered garden with four season interest and of my own design, not formal with fussy parterres and fountains.

Today some really nice ladies toured my garden.  For consideration in a 2019 event.  But when they asked me if I knew all of the names of a few of my hostas I answered truthfully  that no I did not.  I explained to them how I chose my plants for color, shape, texture, etc and how I thought they would fit.  I also said some were gifted out of other gardens where they had lived for many years without anyone remembering their names. Right or wrong, I felt in the moment like a very bad gardener who had flunked a horticulture class.

IMG_9059Really, I am sorry for my plant amnesia.  I should write down cultivars more diligently. I just don’t.  I see, I feel, I plant, I enjoy.

My garden is something I enjoy very much.  It’s not a formal arboretum — its a four sided, rambling, four seasons kind of a country garden.  To my English and Irish friends it is I am told very similar to their native cottage gardens. But to old school garden club folks, that is not necessarily acceptable here in the U.S.

Cottage gardens and layered gardens are actually a lot more work than a lot of other gardens.  It’s a sensory thing with jumbles of flowers and plants and paths and nooks and seating areas. And other elements to add whimsy. But you have to keep everything trimmed properly or all of a sudden it is just too much garden.

IMG_9058But a cottage garden is the perfect rule breakers garden. Plant what you love. Appeal to your own taste and style.  Make it romantic. And lush.

A true cottage garden says come in and wander and stay a while.  So if people think that about my garden, that is the nicest thing for me.  After all, gardens should be shared…just forgive the garden amnesia.  I can tell you who I bought each plant from, just not it’s particular cultivar name necessarily.  And I never took Latin, so what you get in Latin from me is a gift, usually mispronounced.

I must also note that  just because someone’s garden is welcoming, it doesn’t mean you should just come wander.  Ask the gardener first. Otherwise, it’s sadly trespassing and at a minimum a little disconcerting to the homeowner who wasn’t expecting guests.

Thanks for stopping by.

Here are the Fine Gardening posts:

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2 thoughts on “bad gardener?

  1. loving your black eyed susans. Two little fawns love mine and have eaten all of them. They also have a fondness for the New England Asters. First year for this—these two have their own unique tastes.

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