A Garden’s Evolution

The monarda and grass have since been replaced in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The monarda and grass have since been replaced (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

After decades of gardening there is one thing I can tell you with certainty; nothing stays the same. Gardens evolve in a number of ways for a number of reasons. Plants die, creating a vacancy for something new. Some plants outgrow their space while others simply don’t please us any more, ultimately forcing us to make changes. It is during the editing process that we can explore fresh ideas and experiment with different plant materials, which is part of what makes gardening so interesting and challenging. Evolution equals change, something that everything and everyone does every day, hopefully resulting in a more desirable outcome. In other words, when your garden is overrun with mint . . . make mojitos! As a self-taught gardener, I learned a lot from the evolution of my gardens and following are a few of my observations that may help you as you delve into the unpredictable world of gardening.

A few survivors in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Half of these plants didn’t survive (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The 3 Bear Syndrome: If you have already been gardening for some time, there is no doubt you are familiar with this syndrome . . . you just didn’t realize it had a name. The 3 Bear Syndrome (sometimes it’s only 2 Bears) occurs whenever we plant three of the same size and type of plant within inches of each other, yet one grows huge (Papa Bear), one stays medium sized (Mama Bear) and one remains quite petite (Baby Bear). You try all you can, prune the larger one down, give the smaller ones a little extra water and coddling, all to no avail-the syndrome always prevails. This also happens pretty regularly with shrubs, especially when you have a pair front-and-center on a walkway or flanking your front door. With any situation you do have options: remove the offending shrub/plant and try a replacement, rip out the entire fiasco and try something else, or just leave things in their unbalanced symmetry. You decide what is acceptable, I’ve exercised all three choices at various times over the years.

But other plants took their place in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

But other plants happily took their place! (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Never trust tags: Sad but true, I never met a tag that was 100% honest (though some have been close). Tags tell you a tree or plant will only grow so tall or wide, then you carefully select a spot allowing it ample space, and the plant will do one of two things: it will grow much larger than expected or it will grow much smaller than expected. The tag displays foliage or flowers with gorgeous colors . . . some you have never seen before. That is because the color on the tag is an illusion created to reel you in to purchasing this plant, under entirely false pretenses. In the meantime, you’re dreaming of the way the blossoms will complement your purple house, completely unsuspecting of the ruse that awaits you when the plant finally blooms. Some tags deceive you into thinking a plant will tolerate full sun, when it really likes only 4 hours of morning light. Unfortunately, you don’t discover this subterfuge until you find your Kentucky Fried plant laying flat on the ground the day after you planted it. And sometimes the wrong tag is simply in the wrong pot.  The way I avoid tag conspiracy is by researching plants, shrubs and trees either on line or in a reputable horticultural dictionary (I use The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants). I try to refrain from impulse purchases, but when I do fall victim to a seductive exotic I make sure it is prominently displaying the desired feature of flower, foliage or scent that I’m purchasing it for. That way, if it does perish at least I got to enjoy it while it lasted.

These Iris were a gift in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

These Iris were a “Good” gift plant (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Don’t accept plants from strangers: Or friends for that matter! Many well-intentioned people are more than happy to share a plant that has been spreading all over their garden. They will say things like: “It’s gotten so large, I wanted to divide it and share some with you.” (Translation: This plant is completely out of control and I want it out of my garden-better you than me.) Many villains hide under the guise of plant collectors, frequently sharing their booty at local garden club plant sales, telling the unsuspecting buyer that: “This rare specimen is long lived and blooms from spring through fall.” (Translation: It seeds all over the place and is highly invasive.) I was given a “lovely plant” from a friend-of-a-friend and it turned into the Little Shop of Horrors within days, I actually still have a few pieces coming up ten years later! So, buyer beware . . . and that goes for free, discounted or for a good cause plants, because you really don’t know what you’re getting yourself into . . . And you don’t want to find out!

Don't be afraid to Mix-It-Up in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Don’t be afraid to Mix-It-Up (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

If it feels good, do it (even if you shouldn’t): There was a song with these lyrics back in the early 90’s . . . In any case, this thought holds true to any aspect of gardening; if it makes you happy, do it. On the other hand, if it doesn’t make you happy, the reverse applies-don’t do it (a thought entirely appropriate when it comes to vacuuming, dusting, and weeding for example). If you want to plant tangerine poppies with bright fuchsia peonies, please do! Who cares what Martha Stewart thinks? Or your neighbor for that matter? If you want to plant fifty different plants in your garden border instead of groups of three or five or swaths of this and that, again-please do! I do! I love to combine a variety of colors and textures. I dislike large masses of the same plant-I think it’s boring. Instead, I combine several plants with similar features, which creates cohesion without monotonous repetition. Although now that I think about it, there are a few exceptions where I adore the simplicity of a mass of one plant . . . So, if it feels good, do it. Because no matter what you do, something is going to change by tomorrow anyway!

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A Garden for All