Gardens grow

Sumac and Pinder's PerchBear with me a minute while I try to work out whether I garden because my garden needs me or because I need to garden. To garden or not to garden is the question. Sort of. (Not really.) But I just spent a week in a full-bloom place where I wouldn’t dream of gardening. I had forgotten just how diverse and spectacular the plant life is on the island shores of Georgian Bay, Ontario. I could have spent the whole time cataloging rose, meadowsweet spirea, bunches of grasses, sumac, cardinal flower, mosses, ferns, lichens (bright orange!), chives, shad bush, chokecherry, beeches and wind whipped pines. roses in the morning Everything planted by wind and opportunity in rock pockets and more spectacularly designed than any LA’s dreamiest dream. meadowsweetI wouldn’t want to mess with any of it. But I had to wonder, if I was there longer than a week or two – say if I lived there for a whole season, would I feel the urge to edit? To add anything? To prune a little? Would the landscape be improved by my ministrations? I answer a resounding NO! to the last rhetorical question – but I would have loved to use snips on the thicket of dead twigs in the wild rose bushes and a few edibles in a raised bed or containers wouldn’t wreck the gestalt, would it? And can’t help but wonder what my own landscape would look like if it had always been left to its own devices. What if the invasive ornamentals like bittersweet, multiflora rose, Norway maples and goutweed had never been introduced? What lovely forest would surround my house? Would I, could I leave it alone? Since the milk was spilled though and the forest was cleared, I figure I pretty much have to tend my garden.

But evidently it grows quite well without me too. In one tiny week, everything that hadn’t even been close to blooming (or so I thought) opened up. I didn’t need to be here at all for everyone to get on with the business of growing.

cardoonsNo path left in the sideyard gardena not-so-dwarf-after-all miscanthus

The weeds also grew gangbusters and so did the Late Blight on the tomatoes and I guess that’s where I come in handy. My garden needs me after all which works out pretty well since I guess I need to garden too.

And it’s so nice to know I’m not alone. A little detour on the long drive to Curly Rocks brought me to the most beautiful garden in Slaterville Springs, NY where Nino had a chance to cavort with his new best Buddy, Z got to talk bikes! with Chris and I got to bask in the gracious company of a favorite fellow plantaholic. Thank you, Lynn – garden on!

Nino and Buddy

5 thoughts on “Gardens grow”

  1. Kris – I like this take a lot. I am a bit of a naturalistic gardener in the sense that I often leave plants that come on along on their own, but since the whole garden is artificial to start with, this notion of naturalistic gardening is also fake too as you so rightly point out. So, the wild landscapes are what they are, and it’s great that you saw one so lovely. And our gardens are what they are too, in whatever state of work-in-progress they may be at any given moment. Would you ever want it to be finished? Then there would be no solace to be found in gardening! Cheers – Karen

  2. Kris, An excellent essay and great read! It sounds absolutely wonderful to visit a natural area were natives out numbered invasives! Twenty years ago when I walked in our natural/forested parks I just saw the fantastic wildflowers and natives. …now too many privets, vincas and bush honeysuckle…It would be wonderful to be able to let our yards return to nature,; even if we edited and added! Unfortunately, the too successful exotics would be there before anything else~~I know this from first hand experience! gail

  3. Thanks, Gail. It’s amazing, isn’t it, just how invasive some of the invasives are? I have to admit that I’d have a very hard time giving up my favorite exotics – and all the ones that might become favorites… Whenever it’s something I’ve chosen, I seem to tolerate a little more rambunctiousness than maybe I should. -kris

  4. Karen, You’re right – I’d never want the garden to be finished – what’s the point of that?! And even though my garden – naturalisticly messy as it is – really does seem contrived and artificial compared to the Curly Rocks landscape, I still wouldn’t (be able to) have it any other way. -kris

  5. My garden calls out after much neglect. Maybe next summer the weeds can get Lyme Disease and I can have most of the energy, instead of the opposite that happened this summer.

    Multiflora Rose landed in my school garden. yes, in the midst of the roses ;’)

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