21 September 2007

Not in my garden....



Kim, also known as Black Swamp Girl, came up with a really intriguing meme called NIMG--Not in MY Garden Challenge. She invited fellow garden bloggers to write about garden features that they don't care for, and the responses have been great (read the comments following her post and follow them back to the various bloggers who have shared their thoughts.

When I’m out giving gardening talks, my overarching theme is simply to encourage people to bloom where they are planted. If three pots of bright scarlet geraniums or a wildflower meadow or hundred-thousand dollar landscaping job is what gives their gardening hearts joy, so be it. I do encourage people to grow as organically as they can, but otherwise, it’s freestyle for everyone.

In my own garden, I plant things that give us joy, and there are certainly things that I wouldn’t do here. That doesn’t mean (in most cases) I don’t enjoy seeing someone else’s garden sporting these things—far from it. It all comes down to a question of tastes and choices, and there are only a few things I simply don’t care for at all. (Garden gnomes, plastic lantern lights, tulips planted in straight rows, and perfect green monocultures of ‘lawn’ are three things that cause me to cringe.)

Here then, are a few features that you’ll never find here at our happy yard.

1. Clipped hedges. Whether evergreen or deciduous, it doesn’t matter. I like the natural look in my own yard, and I don’t have time or inclination to go around meticulously pruning plants to be exactly the same size. We have some white spruce that we’re making into a windbreak and they get topped every year or so—but otherwise are encouraged to grow as thick and happy as they want.

2. Massed bedding of annuals. I love annuals, I really do, and encourage others to try different species in their gardens or containers. But I’m not fan of carpet bedding, nor of scattering all kinds of colours and kinds of annuals together, higgledy piggledy. The first is way too formal, the second too muddying; with all the polkadots of colour nothing stands out clearly.

3. Bulbs in rows. I noted above this is a no-way, no-how thing for me, but thought I should comment further. Masses of daffodils look great because they do grow into masses and look like an explosion of sunlight. Tulips look fine in rows in huge fields in Holland, where they’re commercially raised, but otherwise, I prefer them planted in drifts, or in clumps of 7 or more. I know they lend themselves to being regimental by their straight, erect growth, but it doesn’t work for me—especially when it’s a mix of colours and heights planted in the rows. Nope.

4. Plastic lantern-style lighting. My sister put these in and I constantly make fun of her (love you dearly, sis, but the lights are just icky!). They look like runway landing lights, and don’t do anything but make a bit of light. The solar ones are even worse—just glowing blobs like radioactive mushrooms, casting no real light at all. What I DO like for lighting is low-watt, professionally made lighting that actually has an effect—used to highlight a feature, or bathe a part of the garden in light, or whatever. But those fixtures are quality, featuring nice metal and glass, not tacky wally-mart plastic, and they can be put where you want—not hindered by being all joined together.

5. A beautiful vegetable garden. I LOVE these in other people’s gardens, make no mistake—but I don’t have one, for several reasons. I don’t have time to put into one, I live in the Annapolis Valley where much of Nova Scotia’s produce is raised, and I’d rather put my efforts into flowers and shrubs, etc. Also, we have a few issues with weather and soil. Our heavy clay is slow to dry out in spring, and the frequent fog keeps things cooler, making it difficult to get some things to ripen. Even in the greenhouse, where my tomato plants are producing the occasional ripe fruit, it’s a challenge—we have lots of green fruit, but fog just doesn’t ripen them at all.

6. Topiary of any sort. It just irks me unless it’s in a children’s garden where it looks like fun. However, I have a real hate on for it after seeing this banal video about Disney World. Ack!

7. A perfect lawn. We have a lot of grass here, it’s true. We have seven acres, much of it in pasture for the horse and donkey-from-mars, but also a lot of ‘lawn’. It’s always green, courtesy of the fog (except in winter, of course) but it’s not what a lot of people would like for lawn. It has dandelions (saviours of bees in the spring). It has clover (fertilizer for soil, holds ground in place, doesn’t need mowing, also feeds bees.) It has lumps and hillocks and divots courtesy of senile donkey-from-mars getting lost between barn and pasture. I ‘take back the lawn’ another foot or so every year, making the borders bigger and the lawn smaller—and though longsuffering spouse grumbles, he secretly likes that there’s less to mow.

8. A weed-free yard. I was just outside inspecting the borders for my late garden bloom report. There are lots of things in bloom, including things that we don’t really want—wild mustard, goldenrod, asters, jewelweed, oxalis. I don’t want these in my borders, but on the rest of the property they’re just fine, because they are important plants for wildlife such as birds and pollinators. Well, maybe not the oxalis, which is just a pain. I pull weeds when I have time, mulch where there’s room, but mostly let the borders get full of perennials and shrubs to pull things out. I have resorted to glyphosate for the goutweed/bishop’s weed, and occasionally to the vinegar-salt recipe for the driveway and walkway, but this isn’t a perfect garden or yard.

But it is a very live and thriving one. And that's all that matters to us. (photos top and bottom are part of our garden--rambunctious and happy)

8 comments:

  1. Great post, Jodi. I love the way you combine tolerance toward others with a willingness to be open about your own preferences. "Not in MY garden" would be a great meme for gardening blogs, wouldn't it? I'd pick it up myself except that so many of my NIMGs are the same as yours!

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  2. hey jodi! i love this post and share your NIMG for numbers 1(which i have presently by accident)2,3 and 6. Great picture, too. i love your flowers.

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  3. Jodi, you captured the spirit of the meme perfectly! Like you, when I work at the garden center I encourage whatever anyone else wants to plant--I just give them gentle tips like the merits of contrasting leaf color and texture to retain interest when things are out of flower, etc. I wouldn't have daylilies or black-eyed susans in my garden, but if they want a whole bed of them I heartily encourage it.

    That first picture is stunning, by the way. Please tell me that IS in your garden?

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  4. Yeah, I'm with you on clipped hedges, too much trouble. I couldn't mention them in my NIMG post because I hate clipped Forsythia & Magnolias. The only topiary I like is the surreal kind, e.g., a boxwood clipped into a question mark.

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  5. Yes, yes and yes! Although I do have a gnome which I really don't like but he makes me laugh because he is soooo tacky! Great picture!

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  6. Sounds like you garden pretty much the way I do. ;-) I think I would feel right at home in yours!

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  7. I had a little Firefox crash when I started to reply to these comments earlier. Wild Flora, this IS a meme, courtesy of the imaginative Blackswamp Girl (and Kim, yes, this IS part of my garden!). Go to her website if you want to play the game too.

    Gina, hi, glad you like the photos and my comments. I hope that anyone who reads them realize they ARE meant to be in fun and not to be a putdown of anyone (I worry, believe me!).

    Kim, I did fix the post and point back to your blog, sorry I didn't do that initially. (still getting over a cold here.)

    Mr. McGregor's daughter, I can't IMAGINE anyone clippig magnolias, but I understand it is done in some places. I too would like a topiary question mark--that appeals to my surreal mindset.

    Layanee sometimes things like gnomes DO work well as a counter-cultural comment or something like that. So long as you enjoy him--I'd have a pink flamingo here for exactly the same reason.

    Dirty Knees, you're welcome to visit anytime--we probably do garden quite a bit the same, from reading your blog. :-) Vive le jardins, however they bloom!

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  8. 8. A weed-free yard...

    My Dad, an avid gardener with an emerald green thumb (and who thinks dandelions are beautiful) used to say that if he killed all the weeds and dug up all the dandelions, we'd have no lawn at all. :) I'm with you. I love a garden to be mostly unstructured. Free.

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