The past few days, there's been a disturbance in the garden blogging 'Force.' It all stemmed from a post made, perhaps with the best of intentions, about ugly unkempt gardens, mostly of the vegetable type. We’ve had a lot of sometimes heated talk in the past few days about ugly gardens, and messy gardens, and gardens with no design to them, and WEEDS, my dears.
There’s been twittering. There’s been blogging. There’s been myriad comments in defense and in umbrage of the original post, and I’m not gonna name the blog nor the blogger, but I am gonna confess my own sins.
Well, to begin I have this thing about weeds. The worst weeds in my estimation aren’t ‘weeds’ at all, but naughty ornamentals gone out of control. Like the bane of my existence, goutweed (Aegopodium). But otherwise...I really like most of the plants that many would call weeds.
I grow milkweed (Asclepias syriaca AND A. incarnata along with butterfly weed, A. tuberosa). I do this to help out the monarch butterflies, which cannot survive without milkweed. I also let a honkin' big patch of nettles grow up by the spruce trees, because there are the food source for red admiral butterflys (in cat form). I let a lot of wild plants--daisies, goldenrod, asters--do their own thing MOSTLY outside the garden beds, but if one or two plants creep into the perennial borders, no biggie. Bees, songbirds, butterflies, and other benign creatures depend on these plants to help them survive.
There are also gorgeous, glorious wild orchids on our property, some species of Platanthera (fringed orchids) and Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium), a hugely important butterfly plant. And spruce trees, and young firs, and mountain ash, and scubby wire birch, and carex and juncus and many species of wild grasses, many other shrubs and trees, growing in a blissful and healthy riot in the upper parts of the property.
Along the lower border, edging the paddock and a swampy ditch, there are willows, which many people decry as being bad plants. They take up some of the swampiness and create habitat for my beloved frogs. There are major numbers of cattails in the pond; perfect hiding places for small reptiles and amphibians, nesting places for my beloved redwinged blackbirds. There are alders all along the edge of our pond, bounding much of our property, and creeping into the lower pasture where we haven't mowed for several years. Alders are despised by many people. But they are excellent plants for securing stream and creek banks, filtering out toxins from water, providing food and shelter for wildlife.
There are dandelions in my lawn. Lots of clover. These both feed the bees, while all the perfect lawns at the McMansions a few miles off with their lethal doses of chemicals don't feed anything except the wallets of lawn care companies and big chemical.
All these things would give the average suburban home association a massive attack of the pearlclutching vapours. I'm blessed, however: I live on 7 acres, with a woodlot to the north of me, hayfields to the south, and a benign neighbour up the road and across about 200 feet. However, those driving by can't see what I'm up to, and you know what? I don't care if they do. (Oh, but Grace, I did finally get the Christmas wreaths and the swagging off the house and arbour. Today. The snow finally was gone from the base of the arbour that we could move it.)This time of year, everything is a mess. As you'll see from the photos, even today, there is still snow in some areas. As it melts, it makes parts of the yard very squishy. In an effort not to compact things down more, we're only working around the edges of the drier gardens. I test a lot of plants, and so we don't always have big drifts of perennials because I'm trying a new shrub or perennial and things are accordingly spotty. But colourful.
In our family, I'm the primary income earner, which I do as a freelance writer, photographer, editor, sometime speaker. A lot of my income comes from talking about/writing about/taking photographs of gardens and gardening. And my mantra is "We can all grow great gardens.'
What that term 'great garden' means to you may be totally different from what it means to me. Here, my great garden is a mix of natives and introduced, heritage and hybrids, brand new and old faithfuls, trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, ephemerals, annuals, bulbs, herbs, even a wee few vegetables. Yours may be three scarlet geraniums in a clay pot on a deck. They're both awesome, because they bring us joy.
In being a freelancer, rather than working for some company as a writer, things can be challenging. I have one client who is always significantly behind in paying me, and others that are occasional clients, others who are awesome and regular, which help me to build cushions for when I'm waiting to be paid by the big client who likes to hang onto their money til the last moment. So I don't have the spare cash to, say, hire a designer to deal with levelling some of the land or building me the stone wall I dearly want or doing any of a hundred other things that could be done. So we do them ourselves, what we can. This year, I am adding more soil as soon as I find some that is decent. I want to join a few beds, top up some areas, raise one section for an idea I have. Due to health issues, mostly mine, we can't do a whole lot in the run of a day, either. A couple hours for me and I can barely move, and I'm in constant, tedious, pain. But I work away at it, and LSS helps when he's not cutting firewood or doing some odd job elsewhere, or working at his own passions (his boat).
So it's not designer-perfect. But it's ours and we love it. If you don't love it, well, then send me some of your spare cash and I'll hire a friend of mine to improve it. Or, just don't look at it. We won't be offended.
I just want people to plant gardens, and plant things they enjoy, and enjoy what they do. Beyond that, we're learn as we grow together. It's NOT all easy, for sure. It can be strenuous, expensive, timeconsuming, frustrating. It can also be heaven on earth.