2010: An Unplanned Garden and the Philosophy Behind It

19 Jun

I did a lot of thinking and thumbing through gardening books during the winter of 2010 in preparation for our future garden, but basically, I am someone with more optimism than concrete knowledge of garden design (or in fact, gardening in general beyond the bare basics).  I do not know how to propagate, have rarely had to divide my plants, and can’t be bothered with elaborate plant care beyond deadheading, watering, mulching, fertilizing every once in a blue moon, and keeping them somewhat tidy. I realize this is anathema to real gardeners, and one day, I hope to become a real gardener. In the meantime, I will keep planting things and hoping for the best. In hindsight, this operating procedure of diving right in and tweaking as I go is not new. It is the underlying principle by which I have painted the interior of our houses, but that is another story. I will only say that it helps to have an understanding husband who likes the end result and puts up with the tortuous path I take in getting there.

But back to the garden: we started digging out three flower beds in the summer of 2010, after hosting an Easter Egg Hunt in our bare, grass-only yard, at which point it became quite clear that hiding colorful plastic Easter Eggs in a sea of flat green requires a lot of creativity.

My very simple gardening philosophy was the same then as it is now:

  1. Flower type: Perennials all the way, with a very occasional annual or two to liven things up as needed.
  2. Color scheme:  Hot (purples, fuchsias/wine reds, oranges, and yellow).
  3. Foliage: Different leaf shapes and colors (variegated and non-variegated) are essential.
  4. Height: It  matters! Flower gardens need a different mix of plant heights. Also, taller plants can help form a natural privacy screen along fences shared with neighbors.
  5. Bloom period:  Plant flowers with differing bloom times, to ensure at least some activity in the garden from early April into October.

2012 example of hot-colored perennials with diverse foliage and differing heights: Garden 2

Armed with these few concrete thoughts and a very preliminary list of possible plants that could meet my requirements, I ventured out to the local nursery. What always happens is I cannot find many plants on my list, either because the specific variety is simply not available (or is not common to my area), or I am visiting the nursery at the wrong time. So then I end up with plants not on my list. On the plus side: there are some beautiful plants in my garden I might never have considered had they not caught my eye at the nursery. On the minus side: as with clothes shopping, it is easy to buy something beautiful in the store only to realize once you are home that it just doesn’t look quite right on you no matter how hard you try to make it work. A far corner of my garden now features these spur-of-the moment horticultural purchases, the ones that don’t quite work in the main flower beds.  But I am now no longer swayed by a pretty bloom unless I know it will fit and make the garden look better by its presence.  I’d like to say that is also true of pretty dresses….

Next: Phase 1.

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