Landscape of Happenstance
The garden has been looking a little sad lately. With 100 degree heat for nearly a month, the Heuchera is fried, the roses wilted with exhaustion and even some of the Blue fescue has just plain given up in despair. The weeds, however, are thriving, as is the invasive Horsetail (poor choice). The Lavender and Wallflowers have grown so tall they are blocking other parts of the garden, choking out the Patty’s Purple, Pink Sugars and Gold Gazanias, not to mention covering the footpath.
One hates to pull up a plant that seems to be thriving, especially when others are struggling. You think it somehow contradicts some vague Taoist “go-with-the-flow” principle. Are you imposing your will over something wild, refusing to see the beauty in nature’s choice, insisting on your own design rather than embracing the sacred landscape of happenstance?
Sometimes you have to look at the garden as a whole. Was that plant really the right choice for that area? Is it taking up all the water or blocking the sun because if its size? Does the whole garden work with that plant there? And then you realize there was never happenstance involved, it was always your design – though not always a good design. Maybe if you were a professional landscape designer, you would know exactly how everything should go together. But you do your best, you read the labels and look things up and then throw up your hands a say, “What the hell, let’s give it a shot.” Sometimes you get the fabulous Rosemary shrub that doubles as a Christmas tree in winter, or the Iceberg roses that bloom almost the entire year. But you also put that stupid Horsetail by the fence in the ground instead of a container, and now it’s like playing “whack-a-mole” trying to stop the shoots from spreading. You chose the Wallflower and didn’t realize it would grow so tall. So you have to make hard choices. Pull out plants so you can try something else. Sometimes you have to stop, admit a plant isn’t working for you, the designer, even if that plant is growing like, well, a weed. The harmony of the garden as a whole demands that you remove those plants, learn from your mistakes and begin again next spring. For the winter though, the ground may have to lie fallow.
Sometimes you are the one who has changed. Once you may have enjoyed spending every Sunday deadheading and pruning and weeding. But now your back aches, you’re tired from work, the heat makes you weak, and you have other projects you want to spend some of your Sundays on. Maybe the Coreopsis with its endless demand for deadheading just doesn’t inspire you as it once did. Change requires assessing what is no longer working for you – you as a whole – and pulling the discordant shrub out by its roots. And as you rediscover the Butterfly iris and Society garlic you’d forgotten you’d planted ( because they were hidden behind the overgrown Lavender), you catch yourself discussing your plans with your long lost friends.
We’ve tried that lavender there and it grew too big; let’s try columbine and African daisys (because we tried them elsewhere and now we know how big they grow). Maybe even some succulents. And now that we know wire grass grows in that part of the garden, let’s take the time to put down that weed mat to control it. But maybe we’ll cut holes for the dianthus (instead of pulling it out) because it really is just perfect there.
The garden looks a little more tidy, and if it is a little spare, we can spend the winter planning for the glorious new mistakes we’ll make next spring.
Though we may be paying for that Horsetail for a while.