Aesthetic Versus Maintenance
To be or not to be… better make that to be pleasing to the eye or to be relatively easy to take care of, or even keep alive, that is the question, but can’t we have both? Above shot: Hey, spring is easy.
The renovation of the Fairegarden continues with renewed vigor in the fall, for this is the time when evaluation reveals what works and what is playing possum, what is earning its place in precious soil and what is just taking up space. Above shot: The Japanese blood grass, Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’ certainly is a keeper. The Aster novae-angliae is too floppy for the wall and needs to be replaced with a dwarf aster of the same color. Never fear, it will be replanted elsewhere.
Requirements are many, of these living, growing, constantly changing botanics. The criteria include several months of visual interest if not year around appeal. This appeal can be had by the way a plant behaves while *dead*, illustrated in previous posts brilliantly titled Dying Well, Dying Well-Aging Attractively, and Dying Well-Fading Faire. (Click on any of these titles to read more, if you are so inclined.) Above shot: The Shed Bed is slowly going to sleep, Eryngium seedheads are brown bits to contrast the Belamcanda fan-like foliage that is beginning to turn golden shades whilst the seedheads reveal the reason for the common name, blackberry lily.
How plants look, the color and count of the blooms, the textural quality of the foliage, is followed by how well they grow in the sometimes dry, sometimes wet stony clay of zone 7 southeast Tennessee. Steeply sloping topography in a mostly sunny setting adds to the challenge. Above shot: The Gravel Garden looking towards the old steps of the house next door that was torn down to build the garage.
During this longest period of time tending a space in one’s gardening career, without pulling up stakes to move to yet another destination just as things were getting established, there has been the adding of diverse planting material like a demented artist throws globs of paint at the canvas. I am a hopeless collector, buying one of this and one of that in the ongoing experiment to see what works and what does not. Above shot: The front garden, with no lawn, designed for nearly zero maintenance. The weeping blue atlas cedar is flanked by two Cornus sanguinea ‘Arctic Sun’. The winter stems are a mix of gold, coral and red shades.
There have been failures, many and varied. Sometimes death occurs within days of planting, a painful process to a tightwadded psyche. Sometimes there is a slow, lingering demise, called the incredible shrinking plant. Healthy and robust when placed inground, each year sees it dwindle until there is nothing but a blank space with a forlorn tag to remind us of what once was. But, all gardeners know what a blank space means…buy more plants! Above shot: Perfect example of the incredible shrinking plant. It arrived lush and healthy a couple of years ago. Sigh.
Pretty and perky, that is the goal, easily propagated by seed or division to achieve the mass effect, the swath of sweet success that is lightly felt in the purse. Planting many of the same exact specimen close together has been a continuing struggle, for the instinct is to spread the wealth, try the new additions in several places to see how they perform, the dreaded plopping. But progress in that sector is being made. Above shot: The lower Gravel Garden. Lamb’s Ear planted close together!
The rungs of the ladder leading to garden Nirvana are slowly being scaled. Combinations for four seasons of interest in every portion of the property have been studied, noted, dissected and tweaked. The tweaking continues for the art of gardening is a journey, not a destination. Onward. Above shot: The stairway to heaven, heavenly gardening that is.