Breathe in, breathe out, anxiety begone! Last weekend I opened my little garden for an organized tour of quirky neighborhood landscapes. And for nearly 400 visitors and me, it went OK.
See, this weary old garden expert (and you know what they say about experts) isn’t actually a great gardener. What you do is more important than what you know. Something about walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Not making excuses, but I am a lazy, busy, gone a lot and often-tired older gardener who sees sparkling lights around my peripheral vision when I try to stand up too quickly from bending over flowerbeds. And then there’s the weather…
But where most folks have a neat lawn and shaped shrubbery, I have what my mother once described as a “kaleidoscope having a stroke.” There are lots of cool plants in beds and pots, mostly heirloom, native or rare specimen, collected around the country. I also have the expected compost pile, water gardens, rustic arbors, decks, winding paths of flagstone, chipped slate, or raised wooden planks; as well as an over-accessory of bottle trees and other garden glass, gnomes, Green Man sculptures, birdbaths, birdhouses, wall mirrors and more.
Then there’s my wildlife habitat corner and “stumpery” – a shaded fernery piled with interesting stumps and logs. My latest adventure is a fence made with 10-foot crape myrtle trunks connected with irregular limbs, all from my son’s recent crape murder, committed after a serious infestation of bark scale.
Anyway, I found my lackadaisical skills about to be exposed to hundreds of real gardeners, many whom I suspect expected better of me before setting foot inside the enclosed garden (the root word of which means “guarded place”).
So I had to get busy, picking up stuff, neatening my covered potting station, weeding (thank goodness for a new heavy duty draggable tarp), pruning, string trimming, blowing leaves, putting fresh water in splashy water features, raising the clothesline to prevent visitors from being garroted, putting a modesty cloak on my mannequin and freshening up flower beds by setting out colorful winter annuals and vegetables.
Collectively, my existing shrubs, trees, groundcovers, vines, ornamental grasses, perennials and personal obsession of bizarre cacti and succulents already provide contrasting shapes, textures, colorful foliage and flowers every week of the year; leaving just a handful of rather small beds and grouped containers to easily swap out twice a year. In the spring, I set out summer stuff, in the fall, I set out cold-hardy winter stuff. But for this occasion, I went for it big time.
Luckily local garden centers are stocked with plenty of freeze-proof pansies, violas, colorful kales and lettuces, Swiss chard, burgundy mustard, dusty miller, sweet alyssum, snapdragons and emerald green parsley. When combined in small beds and pots, and repeated throughout the garden, just a few of each create a rich 3-D tapestry that leads the eye through the entire garden.
Finally, to relax folks used to wafting quickly through calmer spaces, I placed logs across walks and even hung a knotted rope from an arbor, just to slow visitors down, focus on the here-and-now and actually get grounded and connected to their senses. Maybe I shoulda provided toilet paper tube viewfinders to help folks enjoy my many little vignettes rather than be stunned by the overall excess.
The visitors came and went, generally smiling. I can relax now, because my garden is now ready for me to enjoy peacefully all winter. How is yours looking?
It doesn’t matter to anyone else, you just do you. But for a brief photo tour of my garden, visit felderrushing.blog.
Felder Rushing is a Mississippi author, columnist, and host of the “Gestalt Gardener” on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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