Life lessons from a very personal garden
You can learn a lot about life by paying attention to the garden you create.
Nice people ask to see my garden every year, and my response is always to smile and decline. Wherever my plants live, it’s a collection of interesting flora but no showplace of a garden.Skip to next paragraph
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I grow plants everywhere, united only by decently shaped beds with edges kept neat to relieve what could be visual chaos. The gorgeous tulips in the curve are lovely, but behind them in a gardenia in rehab. A row of huge rescued spireas are showing out, almost eliminating the view of a ragged patch of bulbs and quince behind it.
There are times, though, when parts look good enough to crow about.
The evolution of a garden
This week the woodland garden in the rear quarter-acre is stunning. I started this garden with my husband just more than a decade ago when we married. At that point, it was overgrown with escapee wisteria and a world of weeds and briars. My children had loved the wild part of our property and picked dewberries there, but their games of hide and seek amid the creepy vines were behind them.
He and I walked the space, or, more correctly, hacked our way around and through it, dreaming our shady retreat as we made a path. The high shade comes courtesy of oak and pine trees, while a bamboo wall looms on one side. A row of variegated pittosporum meets up with spireas around the woodland, offering views and blocking them at turns.
We decided to emphasize native plants in the nearly hidden garden, but to leave some of the "weeds," regardless of their lineage. We like the eruptions of boltonia, orange daylilies, and southern shield fern, and, to make room for them, we let the paths be the only interruption of the leaf-covered floor.
It seems like everything ever planted on this property eventually gravitated to this quarter, from vining euonymus to monkey grass (liriope), daffodils, and cherry laurels sprouting like tiny trees underfoot.
Once we cleared enough to see these "desirable" plants, we had a Found Garden. In the spirit of found art, we began with what was already there.
Next we collected native shrubs and trees that grow well in high shade.
One side of the main path became a solid line, where buttonbush and American silverbell step the walkway down to Adam’s needle yucca.
We left the plants on the other side of the path set back under existing trees and leafy carpet; a clump of elderberry forms the backdrop for strawberry bushes and a pair of refugee camellias.
Our chairs are between the camellias, affording a view through the garden and back toward the house.
The earliest spring scene still has a few days before it will be gone, lost to warm weather and thunderstorms. The last red camellias are hanging on, as if reluctant to fall to my pruning snips.