24 January 2013

Blooming where we're planted...however we want!

It's not an earth-shattering secret to declare that I don't like garden gnomes. 

I resisted the temptation, some years ago when I was stuck at an awful bed and breakfast locale in Newfoundland and Labrador, to swipe the two ugly garden gnomes out in the 'garden' as I was leaving, and ensconce them on the top of Gros Morne. I did bump them with my suitcase and knock them over, but didn't hurt them in any way. Whew. I feel better for having 'fessed up to that. 

My dislike of garden gnomes, however, is purely personal and really rather good-humoured. I LOVED the whimsical book "How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack", which might not be high lit-er-ah-chure, but is darn funny, and hey, I can even enjoy a whimsically placed gnome or three. I'm not a zombie-fan but I've seen zombie gnomes and they reduced me to chortles of glee. 

The reason for this confession comes as a result of a discussion that happened on Twitter and on the blog of my friend and fellow gardening addict, Colleen Vanderlinden of In the Garden Online. Colleen took umbrage, rightfully so in my opinion, at some negative and critical posts and comments about 'crimes against gardening' posted by another writer. She didn't like the idea of being critical of other gardeners just because we don't share similar tastes. 

I agree with her whole-heartedly. Sometimes, in our enthusiasms, we express opinions about certain plants or gardening techniques that we don't like. Just because I don't like something in my own garden, doesn't mean it is without merit. 

There are plenty of people who turn up their noses at geraniums, especially the standard incandescent red, scarlet and fuchsia coloured varieties. "So common," these horto-snobs sniff. 

Well, guess what? I love geraniums, buy some every year, normally nurture some through the winter (I didn't this year because, well, autumn was pretty chaotic what with moving and all that). I love the so-called common ones...
...and I love trying those that are offbeat or unusual in flower or foliage colour. The scarlet ones aren't my personal favourite only because I don't particularly like that colour...but in someone else's garden, I love them. You know why? 

Because that person planted those scarlet geraniums because they loved them. They're doing their bit to beautify the world around them. Who the heck am I to judge them? 
 Here's another example of a plant that some love to hate: that staple of commercial landscapes, the 'Stella d'Oro' daylily. I include myself as being pretty much 'meh' on this particular cultivar. That shade of yellow isn't my personal cup of tea. However, Stella is a tried and true performer, a rebloomer that keeps going until a hard frost, so it's very useful when you want long-lasting colour. Stella has spawned a number of variants, too, all of which are rebloomers and tough plants.

My problem with that plant in commercial landscapes is that it smacks of laziness in a landscaper, someone who just wants to get the job done, and really doesn't care about the overall result. In someone's garden? Again, I love it because obviously the gardener does too.
This is a (currently) quite expensive daylily called 'Cosmic Traveller'. I have it (and moved it) because it goes well with 'Timelord', another Doctor Who related daylily. You could likely get close to a dozen more common but equally wonderful daylilies for the price of this one. I'm a plant tester and plant collector, and it fit with my quirky tastes so I got it. Others wouldn't like it, preferring cleaner-lined blooms or different colours or not wanting to spend a huge amount on one plant. That's all good and fine. 

We garden for a number of reasons. Some plant foods only, reducing their grocery bills and dependency on stores and foods from elsewhere. Some grow plants to encourage wildlife, from pollinators like bees to birds and butterflies. Some garden for the exercise, or the therapy of "coming in smelling of dirt" (Margaret Atwood), and some for all of the above. 

We all garden to make the spaces around us a little more beautiful. As a gardening writer, photographer and speaker, I call myself a gardening cheerleader. My job is to encourage people to garden, and I firmly believe we can all grow great gardens, no matter where we live, whether we have ten acres of woodland or a north-facing balcony. If I speak negatively about clipped hedges, or petunias, or hybrid tea roses--none of which are to my tastes, but if they're yours, fantastic!--then how on earth can I consider myself a gardening cheerleader? 

As garden communicators, we seek to educate others about the joys of gardening, and we can teach people about things like planting for pollinators, getting our gardens "off drugs" (gardening organically), low-maintenance gardening, drought-tolerant gardening, reclaiming of waste spaces with guerilla gardening, community food gardens...If we set ourselves up as horto-snobs, we will discourage people who are thinking about dipping a thumb or two into soil. And  that does a disservice to everyone. 

There is one exception to my cheerleading efforts, and I just can't find it in myself to say something nice about it because it is almost universally a nuisance plant, despised by all who know it...

 Whether you call it goutweed, bishop's weed, ground elder, snow on the mountain, or by its botanical name of Aegopodium podagraria, just say no to it, please? Okay?

Two little bits of housekeeping before I wrap up today. One, the various nurseries that I work with are starting to send me their new plant lists, and I'll be talking more about new plants in the weeks to come, as well as doing talks about new plants at nurseries and garden clubs. You can check out upcoming talks, not just mine but by others, on the events page at Bloominganswers. And if you're on Facebook, please consider "liking" these businesses:
Baldwin Nurseries
Blomidon Nurseries
Bloom Greenhouse and Garden Centre
Briar Patch Farm and Nursery
Bunchberry Nurseries
Glad Gardens
Scotian Gold Country Store

And finally, pertaining to Bloominganswers: We've been making some changes to the site to give members more features, including instant messaging and a chat room. Membership is still required (mostly to keep spammers out) but the site remains free, and is steadily growing. We're not just about Atlantic Canada, and we love talking about all things garden-related, and would love to have you join us. If we find a cure for goutweed, we'll let you know.


  1. I'm with you on the gnomes, the rule at our house is that you can't buy a garden gnome unless there is a turtle with it, you have no idea how many times my husband has been able to find that combo though :-/

  2. Great post, I agree with all your wisdom.

  3. Have you seen the movie "Amelie"? It may change your opinion of garden gnomes, or at least make you smile.
    (And no, there will be none in my garden. But I do have a large fat Buddha cat statue. )

  4. I used to kinda dislike garden gnomes, but they've grown on me over the years. I have even gone so far as to buy a couple that are a couple of inches tall.

    But, yes, can people just mind their own business about what other people want to plant in their gardens as long as it isn't a danger to the environment, or other people: Who cares!

  5. I know, I'm too lazy to rip out the Goutweed that was here when we moved in. Luckily it's confined to a relatively small area. I have to admit, though, that I really don't like Stella d'Oro Lilies. Not sure why, but if other people like them I have no problem with that. I enjoyed your humorous take on the garden gnomes. :)

  6. Dr Who ... I love Dr. Who. And to get a Dr. Who lily would be awesome.

    I think I have one of those Stella lilies and I "thought" it was a fancy lily. Most of my lilies are the common day lily kind, so that one seemed very fancy to me. ;-)

  7. Very good post! I have a lot of very common flowering plants in my yard, mostly because they were given to me and they are very prolific and I have a hard time throwing perfectly good living plants away. Mostly, all the lilies drive me crazy. I don't really like them, but I haven't been willing to dish out the money to replace them. I get one or two new plants a year, so it's a very slow process. I should say I "buy" one or two...a lot are given to me. Thanks for not being a flower snob! Sorry that was kind of long-winded. Can't wait to see what you do with your new place.

  8. Hey Jodi !
    Always LOve your postings ! They sure do brighten one's day ! I remember your story about your encounter with the Nfld. garcen gnome...I think it was one of my favourite posts from you !...& I so agree with staying on the path of encouraging others to garden rather than we judgemental & critical...really...this negative attitude never gets anyone, anywhere & the glorious bonding to nature in anyway is good for the soul, even when one makes planting mistakes, but I think we can all agree that they really aren't mistakes, just learning & growing just like our future gardens will soon be ! Thanks again & sooooooo Agree with 'Stop the Goutweed'..if there ever was a garden in hell, I'm sure it would be filled with stuff !!! Have a glorious day & I look forward to your suggestions on the up & coming 2013 garden new-bees ! ~ Bev

  9. oops...I few spelling errors in my comment, Sorry...But I forgot to say that I hope you are settling in nicely in your new home & that it is & will be everything you're dreaming of !...the prospects of putting in some spankin' brand new gardens must be exciting for you, but don't let it become work labour, let it simply be your labour of LOve...Have Fun ! Bev

  10. We may 'agree to disagree' ... what I like/enjoy about gardens and gardeners.

    So many of my 'not too fond of' plants/garden art - ornaments look spunky surrounded by complimentary neighbors in other gardens.

    But as you well know, I sure share your hatred for Aegopodium podagraria that loves me more than I love it!

  11. Magnificent article, Jodi!

    People should be able to garden in their own way and to their own tastes, and not have to worry what anyone else thinks. After all, isn't getting away from stress one of the benefits of digging in the dirt in the first place? Seems counter-productive to have to worry.

    (I wish the previous owner of my garden had held off on the goutweed ..sigh)

  12. I agree! i think that garden gnomes don't fit in the garden.. or in the house.. or anywhere ;)

    Very interesting blog btw.

    I'll be visiting you!

    Greetings from Poland!

  13. I share your sentiments... plant the plants that bring us joy and allow neighbors to do the same... unless it looks terrible and creeps into my yard. JK. As in all aspects in life we need to practice a little tolerance. (And oh please move that little gnome... he gives me the heebie jeebies.)

  14. Yes, yes, to all of it! There are several garden styles/plants that I'm not fond of, but I figure that's my own business and no one else's. :-) I love this post!

  15. Jodi, I agree that there's room enough in the world for many different gardening styles and plant loves; and I try to be tolerant of those tastes that I don't share. The one exception for me -- related to your goutweed example -- is that I am fairly intolerant of growing (or selling) invasive plants that are known to escape from gardens and harm the local ecosystem. But, even here, education seems to be a much better approach than ranting. -Jean

  16. Jodi girl there you are ! I got lost on that Google circle what ever that thing is ! .. I could not openingly criticize some one's garden or taste in plants .. it would be hurtful to them as if I criticized their personality or physical appearance .. that doesn't mean I might not go EEEKKK! inside .. but not on the outside.
    We all create our gardens big and small on such a personal level it is a refection of ourselves to a degree .. it gives us such happiness .. we all NEED those bubbles of happiness in life and who are we to break some one's happy bubble ? LOL
    Joy : )
    PS gnomes make me LAUGH ! and we all NEED some of THAT !

  17. I love this post, Jodi. I'm sharing it. To each his own - YEAH!

  18. I agree! The basis of my book, Gardening with Confidence--50 Ways to add style for personal creativity emphasizes PERSONAL. Don't create a garden for others; build a garden of your dreams, not someone else's. Helen

  19. I'm glad I made it to this post. I so agree with you! I am not a gnome fan. Also, I will not have a rabbit decoration in my garden. I remember a number of years ago, picking up a box of tissue in the store that had a garden on it. When I saw the bunny, I put it back, thinking, "Whoever designed that is not a gardener."

    You are right. There is a huge amount of diversity when it comes to gardeners. Not only that, but most of us change over time. I have always had a few plants native to our area, but for the last couple of years, am getting more of them than anything else.


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