What Will Happen To The Garden?


We are still spending way to much time in what if mode. Some might call it idle mind syndrome, imagining disasters where there are none, yet. It has been called The Voice Of Doom by family members. Worrying about things that needn’t be and taking steps to smooth the bumbs in the imaginary road. But planning is in our genetic makeup. Conjuring different scenarios and the results of actions taken or not taken is pleasurable and might prove constructive. The previous post took up the subject of what might happen to the blog when something has happened to the blogger. To read about that topic click here-What Will Happen To The Blog?. Now let’s think about the garden. There are some ideas swirling, whirring, churning, being seriously contemplated about design and maintenance issues in the back and front yards. (The above shot is the current state of the flat garden, no attempt to clean up even as new growth is showing on Karl F.)


Thought number one: what if the old dried up brown, tan and black growth from last year is not cut off neatly and composted, like is normally done. What if those Hellebore leaves are left, the Japanese painted ferns dried up spore laden fronds are forgotten, the tall Karl F. stalks are left standing? Will it be horrible? Will there be deaths? Will it cause blindness because it is so awful? Or will the new growth rise and cover the mess, as it does in the wild, as nature intended? Actually I have seen this idea of doing nothing in action, or should it be said inaction, in the garden of offspring Semi. It has been a few years now since she, or I cut anything down in her back garden. Her work load both in the house and at the paying job, combined with caring for a rambunctious four year old leave her no time or energy for garden pursuits. And the desire to get out there seems to have petered out. I used to get out there, but also lack the energy or drive, especially if she does not seem interested. (Reading back over this, it does sound like a whine about Semi’s loss of gardening interest, shame on me.) I can barely get the work done here at the Fairegarden, and it gets more physically challenging with each passing year, hence this ramble about doing nothing. What has happened at the Semi garden is the taking over by a couple of aggressive natives, grasses and asters mostly into the shrubs and hardy perennials we planted there together. The amazing outcome is that it looks pretty good. Vitex, dappled willows, roses, sedums, penstemons, hydrangeas and more give structure and color while the many grasses fill in the gaps. Bulbs bloom right on schedule that were planted years ago. Could that Semi-Piet method work here, one wonders? Do I have the nerve, make that self discipline to keep from tidying up and give it a try?  Can I not cut the old Hellebore foliage?  It is looking very ratty tatty at the moment, with new fresh growth showing lighter green as the keys are being typed.  This is a job that seems so important, two posts were even written about it, here-Cutting Of The Hellebores and here-Cutting The Hellebores-2009 Edition.  Like everything else, what would happen if it didn’t get cut?  This might be a good time to carry out this experiment, cut some, don’t cut most, and compare. (The above shot is from March of 2009, with old foliage removed.)

June 1, 2009 SF2 077 (2)
Onward. Onward was our word chosen on New Year’s Eve as the lighted ball descended in Time’s Square, at the dawn of a new decade, on television to be our mantra. Others celebrating with us chose the words golf, connect and change. You might guess who said golf. Anyway, onward we go to the next big idea, a total redesign. If there is to be minimal maintenance, the plantings should probably be adjusted. Not just adjusted, total redo, with everything pulled out and the replanting to be done according to a plan on paper. Large swaths of one type of plant flowing into more swaths of well thought out choices, like in the magazines showing professionally installed gardens, is the vision. Like the Piet Oudolf designed Lurie in Chicago, above. Think big! Can we do this? Can the plant collector who buys one of everything and wants to grow everything in the world, design be flipped, make this cosmic shift? Not only could we, but should we? Looking, really looking at the wild areas here in southeast Tennessee, and there are many of them for this is a sparsely populated part of the US with many untended acreages and normally good rainfall, has shown us beautiful landscapes untouched by human design. The mix of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and grasses is breathtaking, especially in fall when the grasses take center stage. It would all return to forest eventually, for the trees will grow to shade out the others, but even that is beautiful. Our imprint is so temporary, nature will always prevail. Evidence: seedlings growing in the cracks of concrete, causing ever greater cracks with the power of tiny roots. Vines growing on porches, sending roots into the wood and bringing the whole structure down with time. (The above shot was taken at the Lurie, during the Chicago garden bloggers meet up.)


Next up, slightly less ambitious in scope, is the rethinking of the purpose of the veggie bed. With the newly opened farmer’s market nearby, the decision not to plant things available for sale at very reasonable prices at that market has already been made. So what to do with the narrow strip of enhanced soil with the block wall raised bed installed between the fifty foot long Chamaecyparis hedge and the Arborvitae hedge? Gold and Red raspberries will remain, for they are perennial and have produced well. A small fig tree at one end will be coddled and may one day give a fig. Strawberries have overtaken every square inch, spilling over the wall and growing into the landscape fabric that lines the paths below and above the planting bed. Those will be pulled, for nary a berry, maybe one, was eaten by humans last year. Rabbits made out like the bandits they are. What should be planted there? More food crops but on a lesser scale? More security measures to protect the food? Ornamentals? Should it be a holding nursery for baby plants until they are strong enough to be cast out into the wilderness to be?

As to what will happen to the garden after we are gone, whether we move or just turn back into the dust from whence we came, well, we already know how to handle that one. Every house we have owned, and even those just rented have had gardening done in them by the Fairegardener. At some of these houses, a few plantings, trees and shrubs mostly were left in place and have grown to maturity. Some were not a good idea and grew too large, they must be pruned continuously, to my humiliation. One garden, in California was completely bulldozed and lawn planted in its place. Another garden is a shrine, totally unchanged. There was some bittersweet vine that was stuck in the ground at either side of the front door as Christmas decor there and it rooted, probably done in 1989. It is still growing there, framing the door. I know they have to be pruning it constantly to keep it from eating the entire two story house, but it remains, neat and tidy as the day it was stuck, er planted. Did I worry about the plantings when the houses were sold? Not a bit, they are no longer mine to consider. I did dig up what I wanted to take with me and have those things planted and growing in my current garden. If I move to another, some will make that move as well. If I don’t move, but rather leave the earth altogether, maybe someone will scatter my ashes in the garden. I used to want my ashes placed in the hole of a newly planted Oak tree, properly sited so that it could grow tall and wide without being pruned because it was too close to something like power lines or a building. Now I would settle for the scattering on the beds, so I could live among the flowers and feed them. (No tears now my children, for this is merely a blog post about ideas. There is no hidden message of terminal illness, that I am aware of anyway. The moment you are born, you begin to die.) As for the gardens themselves, they would be the property of whomever held the house, whether family or new owners, to do with as they wished. I would hope there will not be the need for constant pruning of things wrongly chosen or placed is all.

That is enough for one story. So many questions without clear answers remain in the miasma membranes that are topped with hair colors yet to be determined. Back to Cinnaberry? Let it go completely natural? Shave the whole thing? No to the last one, we have done that before and it is way too cold now, we would have to sleep in a toboggan. How about some Cinnaberry streaking? Long, short, layered? Where is the normal impulsive decision making of the past? Should an appointment be made with a hair dresser, or should we just take up the scissors and start whacking, the usual method. What is with all this wishy-washyness? Spring, hurry up and get here so we can have purpose to each day and be too tired to do all of this thinking.

Frances

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40 Responses to What Will Happen To The Garden?

  1. Kathy Stilwell says:

    Frances, what will I leave behind is one of the questions that accompanies my days. I, like you, want my ashes strewn in the garden as this is my idea of heaven. It won’t be long…I can feel spring approaching.

    Hi Kathy, thanks for giving your two cents worth! Dust to dust, or from the poem, to dust returnest…. that dust might as well help the flowers grow. Come on spring!!! We are in serious flood mode here, not at my steep slope, but in low lying areas, with snow coming later in the week. I had better get working on that book! 🙂
    Frances

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Frances, It sounds like you have a bad case of winteritis. I have always felt that I would garden to suit myself because if you move on, in any manner, the next person would likely bulldoze the garden and start anew. I would like my ashes spread in the mountains where I feel so at home. I have never lived in the mountains but I feel drawn to them like most people talk of being drawn to the ocean.

    It was so warm here this weekend I actually got outside between rain showers and picked up sticks. It felt good to be out there with a mission.

    Hi Lisa, you are so right, the weather has me held prisoner. I am glad you got outside recently. We dash out whenever there is a lull in winter as well. Where are those hair shears? 🙂
    Frances

  3. Hi Frances

    Too much time to think. I know it well and sometimes it’s difficult to see the way.

    As for the tidying the old foliage etc.. I’m sure it will be hidden come late in the season and effectively compost itself. Truth is it will take ’til much later in the year for the last years dead growth to dissapear.

    A holding, nursery bed is a terrific idea. I think I’m going to create one.

    Have you ever grown artichokes? Now there’s an edible ornamental!

    I’m sure you’ll get a moment of inspiration, a second wind, new designs put into place and quite strong possibility the old foliage will be cut back. Well it’s so satisfying composting it.

    Onwards.

    Thanks Rob, for seeing the forest through the trees! There will be some things that must be cut, like the tall Karl. Others can be left, like the hellebores, or that is the plan as of right now. I have tried to sow the artichoke seeds that came with Gardens Illustrated last year, no germination. The leftovers are in the greenhouse under glass now, but so far, nothing. My plan is to cut back the tall stuff and mulch the whole thing. Don’t know if it will get done, but a second wind is sure to blow soon. 🙂
    Frances

  4. Daphne says:

    It is true that gardens are ephemeral. I keep hoping that whoever buys my house once it is on the market will love the garden and keep it. The last house I sold had two buyers. We picked the one that loved the garden.

    Hi Daphne, that sounds like the right choice was made, we would have done the same thing.
    Frances

  5. Frances, You have cabin fever, dear. Don’t we all? That’s why those plant and seed catalogs show up in January. To get us to part with our money while daydreaming over all those pretty plant photos! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Cameron
    PS The owners of the last two houses that I built have continued to maintain the gardens that I planted, and have even extended and made them better.

    Hi Cameron, thanks for the cheer up. Cabin fever, wintertime blues, yuck! It seems to be affecting me more than usual this year for some reason. So far I have only parted with a little money on some mail order shrubs, trying to hang on until Mouse Creek and others have their plants ready for sale. You are lucky with your old gardens. Although it honestly does not matter to my what they do after it is sold. I have other fish to fry. 🙂
    Frances

  6. Steve says:

    From an old Captain Beefheart song: “Someone’s had too much to think!” LOL,actually I enjoyed your transparent ruminations on “what to do.” Its refreshing to see others deal with confusion which plagues us all in one form or fashion. If it’s not the garden it would be something else. Winter does this. I think you should plant exotic perennials in that rasied garden – and leave space for adding others. I mean real exotics. Naturally, you could squeeze in some asparagus or even a slew of herbs, but it’s hard to beat perennials for slow, revealing pleasures. How about trying 10 different Penstemons? Hey – I’m just trying to help!

    So right, Steve! I am glad you enjoyed the trips down the paths of what if. I like you Penstemon idea. We have a few of those in our only alkaline area, the flat garden that used to be a gravel driveway, plenty of limestone in there as opposed to our acidic conditions everywhere else. Some will grow, but we have wasted quite a bit of treasure from High Country Gardens on total failures for that bed, so I am hesitant now to throw good money after bad. 🙂
    Frances

  7. I do wonder what the next owner of our house would do to everything I’ve planted. I’ve thought about specifying a 2 month gathering period where I can come back and gather cuttings and a few plants when that day comes. I think you should keep a couple tomato plants in the veggie garden. I’m always happy when I can pull out a juicy tomato anytime I need one over the summer. Keep some herbs in there and intermix perennials and vegetables!

    Hi Dave, if you want to gather, you should have the stuff potted up before the deal is closed. Most new owners will not look kindly on you raiding the garden after it is theirs, even though you know they would not even miss the plants. A tomato, singular, might be stuck in there, for we so enjoy a still warm slice right from the garden. 🙂
    Frances

  8. Rose says:

    Lol, Frances, another timely post–if you have read Gail’s post by now, you know that Ringo Starr is going to turn 70 this year! That certainly makes us feel our mortality, doesn’t it?

    Reading this, I was reminded of a movie I watched recently–“Gray Gardens” with Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore. If you haven’t seen it, it does show what happens to magnificent gardens over time when no one cares for them. I don’t think so much about what will happen to my garden when I’m gone, but then I don’t have a very big garden. I worry more about what will happen to it when I am no longer physically able to care for it. The Semi-Piet method sounds more appealing every day.
    Thanks for the tips on the hellebores–mine were newly planted last spring, so I hadn’t a clue how to care for them. I’ve just let them grow ala Semi.

    Hi Rose, thanks. Yes, we are feeling our age. Ringo!!! HA That sounds like a movie I would enjoy, thanks for mentioning it. My thoughts are the same as yours, and just since we have moved here, ten years this year, my abilities have taken a nosedive. The steepness of the hill is daunting. Slippery paths are a danger. And then there is the garden tending. The plantings have been tweaked, and continue to be, so that the least amount of maintenance is necessary for them to look good. It is something to think about. I started here with three hellebores. There are now easily over a hundred, with a hundred babies around each of those. Too many to cut, so they will be uncut this year.
    Frances

  9. linda says:

    It will be interesting dear Frances, to see how your winter ruminations affect (or don’t affect) how you garden next season and in the seasons to come. It’s interesting how we grow and change in the seasons of our lives. Thank you for sharing your thought process. I’m looking forward to more conversation in the comments.

    It’s a pleasure driving by my last house, seeing the front gardens exactly as I left them and being nicely maintained. I’ve been tempted to drive to the neighborhood, park, and take a walk on the street behind so I can get a peak at what has happened in back. The house before that, the new owner ripped out everything except the front garden and planted lawn in its place. In the house before that, the gardens remain, but the house in unrecognizable – an imposing 3-story McMansion was built around the original cape cod. It looks ridiculous in the cozy neighborhood of sweet little baby boom ranches and cape cods! I still have a lot of friends in that neighborhood, and they hate the house now, but often comment on how pretty the gardens still are. I’m amazed at how much the trees have grown, and am pleased that the mature plantings look so pretty and at least, soften and give an established look to the McMansion.

    Hi Linda, thanks. It is possible that this will all be forgotten when the weather allows work to proceed in the garden again. But the search for easier tending, or none, will continue. My body demands that I lighten the load somewhat. We like to drive by the nearest former home whenever we visit there. I tell my husband to slow down, but he doen’t want to attract attention, like we might be casing the joint! I am sorry about the new building over the quaint smaller house, but glad the gardens were saved.
    Frances

  10. lotusleaf says:

    One of the houses we lived in had a completely neglected garden. After some ministrations, roses, bougainvillea and ixora of different hues woke up. Suddenly other plants which had gone underground in the heat, started appearing. It seemed miraculous!

    That is the most wonderful story, Lotus, thanks so much. We needed a pick me up, obviously. Hearing about that kind of renewal after neglect does the heart and soul so much good. The plants are strong, do they really need us that much?
    Frances

  11. dirtynailz says:

    Frances, I have pondered that question often, and I have come to the conclusion that gardens are the temporary creative reflections of the people who design and work in them. When those people leave, the garden changes. Whether it changes for the better or worse is subjective, of course.
    I moved last September, and unfortunately, we live only a few houses away, so I have to look at what the new owners are doing to the garden.
    3 trees – chopped down, including the lovely crabapple I rescued from strangling bittersweet when we first moved in. It was absolutely humming with bees when it was in flower. They also hacked my shrub roses to the ground and ripped out the clematis viticella “Polish Spirit” that I had trained to grow between them.
    Anyway, enough whining. I could go on and on.
    I just wanted you to know that I do think about this subject often. I believe there are few creative enterprises as intensely absorbing as a garden. Hang in there.

    Hi Cynthia, thanks for joining in this conversation and the support. Gardens are constantly changing, whether they change owners or not. Just like we as people change too. How sad to think of your garden changed, right under your nose too. I guess that is a drawback of not moving far enough away. My one garden that was bulldozed, I was still in my thirties, was somewhat hurtful. I got over it though and have a more philosophical take on it now. But do agree, gardening is very personal.
    Frances

  12. Jean says:

    Ha! Yes, spring needs to get here fast. I’ve been trying to decide which plants to buy online and am stuck because I can’t decide on anything.

    It would be interesting to see you experiment with doing no clean up at all. Maybe in parts of the garden? I’m not sure I could restrain myself, and I think that would be the hardest thing for you. But then again, we’re not getting any younger… I’m not sure you’d like redesigning your garden into a Lurie/Piet style. What would you do when it’s not blooming? Where would the color come from? Seems difficult.

    Okay, let’s get out in that garden. I’m starting to feel too wishy-washy too.

    Hi Jean, oops, sorry for dragging you down to wishy washiness! Last year was the first time that we made a conscious decision to not clean up so much. It was hard to not do the things we were in the habit of always doing, but it is getting easier all the time. My compromise, so far, has been to just bend stuff down and putting a thick layer of mulch over top of the whole thing. The weather is not cooperating at all, frozen mulch cannot be spread. Much of my garden is not about blooms, but has been redesigned with foliage texture and color in mind. The blooms are just a bonus. I just take photos of the blooms. HA 🙂
    Frances

  13. gittan says:

    This time of year is no good for our thoughts. We have to much time to think and not much to do! I also want spring to hurry. What about if we all join togehter and call for it at the same time, could it work ? =)
    We’ve also got more snow comming up this week and we’re a bit tired of it / kram gittan

    Hi Gittan, you are so right. We need some indoor projects that can hold our interest until spring comes back. Count me in on the group call for it to hurry! 🙂
    Kram,
    Frances

  14. Sweet Bay says:

    I’ve already told my husband that if I go before him I want my ashes scattered on the garden. He looked repulsed by the idea. Perhaps I need to get it in writing. Then he’ll have to do it, as he’s a stickler for protocol.

    I don’t want to think what will happen to the garden. Heck in Raleigh Elizabeth Lawrence’s house was saved but the fraternity built their new house on top of her garden. Genius, huh? (I wrote that I hated NC State in red marker in a drawer in my bedroom desk when I was kid — I still have that desk — and my sentiment still stands, btw.) At least her Charlotte garden is still being lovingly tended.

    Relating to Semi’s garden — I don’t do much fall clean-up in my garden either. The Bidens skeletons may be ugly but the birds really love them for cover.

    I do wish that gardening was a more popular pastime in the US. In my part of the country sitting is the most popular pastime — sitting on a riding mower, sitting in front of the TV while chugging a beer — and it’s a shame, really. My garden has so many perennials, smaller shrubs and annuals, making it very fluid from year to year, that someone else could really make it their own.

    Hi Sweet Bay, thanks. I think having it in writing is an excellent idea, no one can argue with that. I agree with you about Elizabeth Lawrence’s garden too. Such a shame. Your garden is the one that comes to my thoughts when thinking how beautiful things are in the wild. Shrubs allowed to grow to their destiny without pruning, things freely weaving together, all enjoyed by the wildlife and humans both. Very natural, as it should be. We are doing way more than our share of sitting here too, and would much rather be working outside.
    Frances

  15. commonweeder says:

    Frances – this is such a fascinating post. There must be something about the start of a new decade that sets the mind to racing. Ringo and I are both racing towards 70, but it seems impossible – for both of us. Still my husband and I have chosen Review and Renew as our mantra for 2010. Not only in the garden, but around the house, and in the time we have left – which we expect to be another decade or two, but time’s winged flight is always at our back. As for what happens after we have flown, or simply not finished all the chores, I don’t worry about it. I have moved often enough to see my little domestic landscapes bulldozed, and had years when I could do very little gardening, and left for China for two years – making me rethink EVERYTHING. So – Onward!

    Onward it is, Pat! I like the review and renew mantra. Time’s winged flight, a lovely piece of prose, if bittersweet in meaning. Moving a lot does teach us that some things are just not important in the big scheme. How interesting to spend two years in China. I can only imagine….
    Frances

  16. A garden is, by definition, an artificial construct. As such, I believe that nature should remain nature, and garden should remain garden. However, it seems best to have the garden echo the surrounding nature, so that the garden seems a part of the greater landscape. What does this mean for your questions? I don’t know, but I would caution against pulling everything out and trying to recreate the Lurie in the backyard. Would you want to part with plants that have an emotional attachment, such as some of the daylilies your neighbors gave you? Do you want to wait for the whole thing to take years to mature? Wouldn’t it be better to remake the garden a small area at a time to be more easily maintainable? How about using part of that veggie bed as a cutting garden?

    Hi MMD, thanks. I agree, our efforts at gardening are the opposite of natural. And about the redesign, the daylilies have been relagated to their own spot, a design challenge to be sure. I would not get rid of them, ever. I do think we can only do a little at a time, but we have enough plants growing here already, that it would just be a task of moving them to the right mixture, more closer together of the same thing, not one here one there. A cutting garden is a lovely idea, thanks. 🙂
    Frances

  17. Edith Hope says:

    Dear Frances, With notable exceptions, and they probably only number a very few, I really believe that gardens belong to people in their own lifetime. When they have gone, moved away or died, it is possibly not important as to what happens thereafter as, in my view, the very spirit of the gardener has departed and taken with it the garden’s soul.

    What I think is important is that we should all delight in our gardens when we have them, whether this is reshaping them completely, in part or simply allowing them to, as far as possible, remain unchanged.

    Hi Edith, thanks for joining the conversation and welcome. My feeling is that the fun, as in most things in life, is in the doing, the journey, and not the end product. A garden is not a static thing anyway, but has a life of its own, and will turn into whatever nature intends without any help, or hindrance from us. Mine is doing just that, as I back away from the work and just watch what happens. Trees make more shade, some things wither, while others prosper and throw seed. We have planted the entire property now, it really does not need anything more. It is just a collector’s addiction that keeps adding more varieties. Can we stop and do nothing more? I don’t know, but it will happen some day anyway.
    Frances

  18. Anna says:

    Oh Frances much food for thought there. I have never thought about what will happen to my garden when I depart this life for good. What I have thought about though are my gardening books and small collection of snowdrops – I do need to make plans for those to go to a home where they will be treasured 🙂

    Interesting point about the hellebores – I think that cutting the old foliage off shows the flowers off better but they would still strut their stuff regardless of a tidy up or not. I do hope that your daughter gets back into gardening when she has more time on her hands. In the meantime it sounds like her garden is thriving.

    Hi Anna, thanks. Oh the snowdrops! Yes, a plan for them, absolutely! I agree that the hellebores will be okay, they just might look messy, like the rest of the garden. I feel it is a matter of retraining my eyes, and brain to not be disturbed by the messiness, to glaze over at that and just see the beauty that is strutting its stuff. Semi will return to gardening I hope, when she has more time. The garden will wait for her, it is fully planted, mostly and the wild grasses are taking care of any blank space. When I showed a friend Semi’s garden for the first time, I made excuses for the weeds, and the friend said that she thought those tall grasses were part of the design. I guess they are. 🙂
    Frances

  19. Catherine says:

    I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that spends time worrying about things that never happen like you describe in your first couple of lines. When I start doing that I have to find some sort of project, even if it’s just making a list of what I want to do once the weather improves.
    I got an idea of what would happen if I couldn’t take care of the garden. While I was pregnant with the Littlest Gardener my husband did his best to help but I could see he just wasn’t that into it. I also didn’t have the heart to tell him he was cutting back things that shouldn’t have been. For now I’ll just fantasize that my daughters would take care of it 🙂

    Hi Catherine, thanks for the back up. Lists are a good way to get the thoughts into constructive form. Your garden adventure sounds like what happened to Semi. At least we got the major planting done before she had LTB, because it has been on a slide since then. 🙂
    Frances

  20. Francis as I am sure you know very little cleaning has ever been done in the ridge top and sunny utility meadow gardens here, other than picking up the bigger sticks, some weeding and keeping new trees out until I arrived. The green will overtake the brown for the most part eventually. Some of the stems of the more woody perennials like goldenrod and some of the asters can remain standing all year and while they do get lost in the green they are still there taking up space. That offends my sense of tidiness once spring gets started. Who wants to see 10,000 daffodils coming up through a bunch of brown sticks? I think the comprimise is to take a pair of hedge clippers and cut down all the brown sticks left after winter and just leave them where they fall. You get a cleaner look with half the effort. Besides with almost two acres of semi-tended ground, (pun intended) being obsessive about it I think would hinder the real enjoyment of the gardening experience.

    As for the garden itself when we are really gone, Que sera, sera.

    Hi Christopher, the ridge top garden is a perfect example of a garden left to its own devices. It does show the wisdom of shrubs in addition to the little stuff. The hedge clippers have been used here in some spot already. It is much easier than the felcos on my weak wrists and made short work of the large muhly bed by the driveway, which is cut and mulched and ready for the bulbs. Some areas are of more importance than others to be tidied. I am trying to combine training my brain to accept the mess with adjusting the plantings so that mess is at a minimum. I was going to include that song and forgot! 🙂
    Frances

  21. Well this was such an interesting article as I had no idea I was supposed to clean up my garden for winter. I just walked away with all kinds of things blooming, and I’m dreaming of getting back to the garden come spring. Next year I will try to be a little more thoughtful. I’m wondering what zone you live in. I’m in N.Carolina but in zone 6 as we are at an elevation of 4000 feet. Seems to me that things grow different here.

    Hi Valerie, no need to do anything really. My zone is 7a, it is in the About Me widget, that has now been moved back to the top, and the biscuit blog link moved down a notch, for easy viewing. Every garden is different, as are the gardeners. 🙂
    Frances

  22. Gail says:

    Thoughtful and thought provoking~xxoogail

    Thanks Gail. I hope the comment only took about five seconds of your allotted fifteen minutes. 🙂
    Frances

  23. Hello Frances,

    You have the true heart and mind of a gardener – wondering what will happen if….as well as trying new things. I always like to look at the gardens of homes that have been abandoned or are getting ready to be torn down due to a new freeway. It is interesting to see what thrives even when neglected. In our area that is Oleander and Bougainvillea.

    Hi Noelle, thanks. We like seeing things like daffodils here, in abandoned fields or around houses that have nearly returned to the earth. Those, and some roses, among others, will live on well past the dwelling.
    Frances

  24. Kiki says:

    Hi Frances! I feel the land has it’s own heart and spirit.. and will usually decide (if we allow it)..to create in the most divine way! And when you touch something with your true heart and spirit( like you obviously do)..your essence is truly imprinted..you are forever immortal in that garden or space..your spirit embodies the land and the land embodies you!Land truly belongs to no one..if only for a short time..but while we are guardians of it..we honor it as best we can..and in turn it honors us infinitely!
    Wonderful read!Thanks for sharing!

    Hi Kiki, thanks, you are very sweet, BTW. We are only guardians, and should do the best we can, but how to know what that is, exactly? I watched my neighbor go from vigorous to invalid very quickly. It was an eye opening experience for me, and the message I got was to make the garden as self sufficient as possible, as soon as possible, but still be able to enjoy the process of tending it.
    Frances

  25. Liisa says:

    Frances,
    I am so inspired by photographs of the Lurie Garden… and I would love to visit one day. When I decided on making a meadow on my front slope, I was thinking not only about the beautiful grasses, bulbs, perennials, and annuals that would be planted, but also about the fact that it would be relatively low maintenance. I love to garden, but don’t want to spend all of time outside gardening. I want to sit outside in the middle of my meadow and just enjoy being in it – without the nagging feelings that I should be pruning or fluffing this or that.
    Like you, I do struggle with this just a bit because I want to grow EVERYTHING! Though I have started to be very selective when shopping for plants. I like the thought of nature taking over the place when I am no longer here to take care of it all. Or, perhaps the next person will enjoy a garden and choose to keep some of what I created. I’d like to think that they would.
    I think sometimes these shifts in our thinking are very good for us, as it allows us to see things in a different way. Thank you for these insightful posts. 🙂

    Thanks so much, Liisa. Do visit the Lurie if possible, I wish we had spent more time there to study every nook and cranny. Your meadow will be wonderful, and the perfect place to just be. That collector habit is a hard one to shake, but it sounds like you are doing the right thing, being more selective. I am too, and it is getting easier, with practice. 🙂
    Frances

  26. Willow says:

    I have been planning our gardens and today I ordered some seeds. Can’t wait til they get here and plant them inside to watch them grow.

    That is good news, Willow. Sometimes the planning is as much fun as the doing. Good luck with your seeds. 🙂
    Frances

  27. Elephant's Eye says:

    Anonymous said – Dust we are, and to dust we shall return, and in between we plant a garden. I love that. And if the hellebores are getting you down, leave them be. Do the bits you enjoy. Says she lugging half a ton of water, 10 litres at a time!

    My Diana, do be careful and don’t hurt yourself! I love the quote as well, never heard it quite like that. I was looking at the hellebores today, there are many buds and new green leaves, but those ratty old leaves do bug me. I need to squint a little more, dang these new glasses! 🙂
    Frances

  28. Les says:

    Thanks for a little light reading before I turn in. Gardener’s are so uniquely suited to be in the present, the future and the past all at one time. It takes a lot of dedicated brain cells to keep in one’s head what is where, what it does, when and how to tend to it, what size it will reach, what it likes to eat, how much water it will need, and other bits of infomation. Where is any fool can mow a lawn. Maybe you could age like Tasha Tudor and spend your autumn years padding around a vast garden without your shoes.

    HA Les, you always make me smile, thanks! I at one time had a vision of me as Ms. Tudor, someone I greatly admire, the little old lady dabbling in the garden with hair in a bun, there’s that hair thing again, and long floral dresses. I even had the outfit, complete with shawl. That was before I moved to Mount Fairegarden, with a slope so steep and bees by the paths that fly up your skirts and sting your thighs. That was when we hung up the dresses and went to long pants only, even in summer. I remember reading about a woman in her nineties that had built a series of rock paths and walls while in her eighties, carrying the rocks in a round grass seed spreader with the mechanism removed. I have one, saved for that purpose. I also need boots. 🙂
    Frances

  29. Kat says:

    Maybe I’m odd, but I have never worried about my garden or my blog. I figure at some point, my words would only continue to resonate with those that loved me and that garden would either return to nature or change under another gardener’s hand. What I have thought about is my book collection. It would seem a shame if it didn’t go to other gardeners. Perhaps I will have to think of making arrangements now with a gardening club so that exactly that will happen.

    Hi Kat, thanks for joining in. You are not odd at all, your fixation is just on something different, the books. Someone else mentioned a book collection as well. I had quite a large collection of gardening books too, and of course we keep buying more. I ended up giving the majority of them to our local library, for they were like new. The ladies that helped me unload the many boxes from the car cried tears of joy, very gratifying. I still have my favorites, and the collection is growing again. I give the magazines to the Mammogram waiting room, for the reading material there was pitiful. Who knows, seeing a magazine like that might convert someone into a gardener. 🙂
    Frances

  30. Teresa says:

    Okay Frances, My grandmother had me put her ashes at the base of her favorite Rose of Sharon outside her back door. Since my parents lived there it seemed like a good idea, but then they moved and my Nona is still there. Hopefully the tree is also. When she died,at 97, my girlfriends gave me a gift card to a nursery to buy something to remember her by. I of course bought a rose of sharon similar to hers. perfect. Well, I took a scoop of her ashes so she could also be with my new tree that was supposed to make me think of her as it bloomed. well, the next year it died. I mean really died. there was no saving it. I am not sure human ashes are all that good for a tree or maybe she was just mad that I didn’t put all of her under her own tree. In any case, I bought a new rose of sharon which not only thrived, but survived the move to our new house. So the moral to my story is we should probably find out if it will kill our plants if we are planted where they are. BTW whenever I drive by my old house where I lived for 23 years and gardened there, it breaks my heart to see everything overgrown and uncared for. I know it’s not mine anymore, but somehow it still bugs me. I wonder if she would even notice if I showed up at night and worked until it was beautiful again. Probably not. Some people just don’t get gardening. Can you imagine? Do you think she’d mind if I dug up the plants instead? I could use them here. I may be writing from my jail cell soon. you’ll know why.

    HA Teresa, just call us and we will bail you out! There is an issue of what the ashes will do to the ground, as you have proven. I know that wood ashes are alkaline and should only be spread on certain plants. We do that every year after the holiday fire in the little fire bowl. Lilacs, peonies, dianthus, rosemary and lavender get the ashes, thinly applied. I don’t know the makeup of human ashes, need to find that out. I do think a light dusting over the whole garden would be okay, and realize that a human returns to a large amount of dust, larger than one would imagine. Some states even have laws against doing so, but we are a lawless group here and would sneak some anyway. I love the name of Nona.
    Frances

  31. I’m with others who think that winter may be weighing on you a bit heavily, dear Frances. I’ve started you an email note but had to put it aside for a day or so while I deal with a few deadline-related matters. Spring will find us all again soon, I promise.

    Dear Jodi, thanks for thinking of me, I am fine, really. Just thinking with my fingertips on the keyboard is all. My dear friend Laurie sent me an email saying that January 25 is the most depressing day of the year, for the Northern Hemisphere. That made me feel better, especially now that it is behind us. Onward! 🙂
    Frances

  32. lynn'sgarden says:

    I say shave it all off…! New Year, new you, new do…lol! Frances, may I suggest a new hobby~Zumba! I had a 62-yr. old man in my class last nite and he had a blast! Great fun for the soul AND body…and gets your mind of the garden blues. Loved this post! 🙂

    Hi Lynn, thanks. As freeing as it was to shave my head, I did it in December and my poor head was freezing cold all of the time. It will be worse now, way too cold. I am ready to grab the scissors however. Zumba sounds like fun. 🙂
    Frances

  33. joey says:

    Survival of the fittest, Frances! I have had to revamp my garden many times over the 30 plus years, especially since I’m away for long periods of time during the growing season. I panic when I get home and spend hours tidying aggressive plants and unsightly perennials (in a rush, pruned off the tip of my left index finger that now looks like a pencil). Since I’ve devoted so many hours to my beloved garden, I often say it would be the perfect place to ‘check out’ 🙂 As much as love spring, the work load is huge and, I hear you, each year it becomes more of a challenge.

    Oh my dear Joey, your poor finger! I have nearly done that with the felcos, and am sooo careful now, as I bet you are as well. I just wonder if it is possible to have a beautiful garden with only a minimum of word involved keeping it that way. It is a worthy goal, if unobtainable. We can at the least make it easier on ourselves with proper plantings, I really believe that. 🙂
    Frances

  34. I think this an excellent question and one worth thinking of. What better time to do so … than in the middle of winter. Is that not why we have these times to retreat and think… it is a good time to ponder what ifs? Take a new perspective in how we look at something like our gardens. With each year we add additional weight (not necessarily in pounds only) to our frames. Time worn muscles and stretched grey cells seem to tell us … rethink! rethink! It is natural to look at one’s garden now Frances… I admire your hard questions. I join you in contemplating. My garden is already showing what happens with abandonment. I have lost rock gardens, herb gardens and large beds of perennials gone. I shudder to think of bitter sweet framing a door, as it is taking over the land here. Perhaps not cutting it down is the key… for it sends up an army of seedlings… here it pulls down tree after tree! When creating our gardens … well we would like to think of the next owner caring for it as we do, but one gardeners jewels are another’s rust! To try to make our gardens more sustainable seems a good idea. Simplify into our sixties … well that is worth considering too. There is nothing morbid about planing as you say Frances… I believe the more we do so … the easier our final passing will be for those left to remember. Why is it that we can so easily admire the stages of life in our gardens but cannot bear to speak of our life and death adventure. So true life begins to fade as soon as it is birthed just as a flower… and our seeds are here in our thoughts to carry on. Your children will be thankful for that part of you too. But now onward as you say… to the spring gardens transformation… to cut or not to cut… that is the question! Great post! ;>) Carol

    Dear Carol, thank you for such a thoughtful comment. You seem to be watching nature reclaim what humans have built. It will happen eventually no matter what we do, she can outlast us all! I feel the urge to simplify everything in my life more with each passing day. Make things easier, and don’t worry about what we cannot change. Get rid of all that excess stuff! I believe that as a younger woman, it was all about accumulation. Now it is about distribution. 🙂
    Frances

  35. skeeter says:

    Eek, your post of what will happen to the blog is a bit scary to my mind. I try to live for today and not think of such things but I do worry about what if one of my cats departs how will the remaining fur ball react? But the Blog? Well, I think the blog should end with one departing or another generation, taking it on… As far as what will happen in the Garden? Well, many things will happen in the garden in time with some being happy moments and some sad but it will continue on from day to day…

    Sorry Skeeter, if this was upsetting to you. Everyone is different about how they approach the inevitable. I choose to meet it head on, on my terms as much as possible. Proactive rather than just letting things happen as they will. As for the blog, I have written instructions on paper with how to access the administrator page and the passwords. So far I have not written a last post, but if I do that will be added to the instructions. Another problem taken care of….Check! Onward! 🙂
    Frances

  36. Rosey says:

    Hi Frances,
    Sometimes it is difficult to make the decision to rely on farmers markets… but you will have more space for your lovely flowers now! I look forward to see what you end up doing.

    Hi Rosey, thanks for visiting. We are assuming the farmers market will continue to be in business, it was new last year so that is iffy. I have already cut some stuff, like the Karl Foerster grass, it is too tall to leave and is beginning to blow all over the place. The Hellebores are not going to be cut, it will be hard not to. As for the redesign, we’ll think about it. 🙂
    Frances

  37. Silvia / SalixTree says:

    Sometimes I wonder what would happen to gardens if all of humanity were suddenly gone. There would be no-one to decide what to prune or pull or move.
    The snowdrops would run rampant, as well as the borage and rocket in the veggie garden. Our driveway would become overrun with alchemilla, which roots itself right in there, along with columbine. Vines growing and tearing into the walls, pulling them down. Seeds from the big tree would take root and grow into a woods. Peppermint slowly creeping into larger clumps.
    I wonder how many of my roses would continue…

    I like the way you think, Silvia. It would be as you suggest, the tree seedlings would eventually win the battle for sun and water with their size and numbers. We have columbines now that are cracking cement blocks with a tiny seed wedged in a small pock mark in the surface. It is amazing the power there. 🙂
    Frances

  38. When I sold my first house (where I had planted my first garden), my realtor told me never to come back because you never know what the new family will do. I did go back to visit friends. The front looked just the same. But I had planted a Japanese maple sapling in the back (honestly, the first year I planted it, the tulips were taller). By the time we left it was waist high – I couldn’t wait to see it. But it was gone. Gone, with only an unfilled hole in its place! Had it died? Had they dug it up to give away or sell? I guess I did get my reward though – the Japanese maple in my new garden is two stories tall and the favorite climbing tree for my kids. I hope they remember it as it is, not as the stump it must someday become!

    Hi Kelly, thanks for joining the conversation and welcome. Your realtor was smart in telling you not to come back. Some of our former homes are visited because we have friends who still live there. We just can’t resist driving by to look at the old houses. I try and not pay attention to the gardens, but take note if the house has been painted or remodeled instead. It is hard not to look for trees that you planted. I am sorry about that maple, but it sounds like you have more than made up for it. 🙂
    Frances

  39. Teresa O says:

    I learned the hard way, that a garden is fleeting and truly beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I adored my country cottage garden on a farm in Ohio, but the big D hit and that garden was torn apart…raised bed, picket fence, plants, and all. I spent days giving plants to friends and digging up what I could, but so much was lost. I’m getting my garden mojo back, but I know it will never be the same and that’s ok. I’m embracing new ways to garden and enjoy the bounty and beauty of nature. As for me…just divide my ashes between a flowering garden and the Atlantic ocean off Cape Cod.

    Hi Teresa, thanks for adding your experience to the conversation. I know exactly how you feel about trying to dig up stuff to share and take with you. It seems so miniscule compared to the garden as a whole. But you have the right attitude, the gardener changes as much as the landscape. Time to begin again. Think how much wiser you are now. The ashes will help the flowers grow, is spread thinly, I believe. 🙂
    Frances

  40. Jean says:

    Frances, I too have been thinking about these issues recently. Like you, I am a planner — and I don’t think it’s a morose tendency; if I have a plan to deal with the worst-case scenario, I can stop worrying about it and enjoy the moment! Although my garden is still in the expansion phase (or are all gardens always in expansion phase??), I’m starting to have some trouble keeping up with it all. I tell myself that when I retire from my full-time teaching job in a few years, that will change; but I also need to accept physical limitations that are part of aging. I think that for gardens like yours that are fairly well-known and beloved, it’s also good to have some kind of plan for the garden as a whole. A cautionary tale was provided by a much-loved and much-visited garden locally. When the gardener died, a battle broke out between children who wanted to divide up the plants and move them to other locations and friends and neighbors who were horrified that the garden as a whole composition would not be preserved. Friends and neighbors set up a non-profit foundation and eventually won, but at the cost of bad blood between them and the family. Thanks for raising issues many don’t want to think about and giving us all an opportunity to consider them. -Jean

    Thanks for weighing in on this, Jean. I can tell that you have given this some thought, and do appreciate that. Having a plan does allow us to not worry, that’s the whole point. We’re ready. That is a sad scenario you describe. The worst fate I can imagine would be my kids fighting about who gets what, whether inside stuff or garden stuff. I would rather give the whole shebang to charity than have that happen. I remember a show on tv where the matriarch gave her kids colored stickers to put on the belongings that they wanted while she was still alive to referee. I think that is a good idea and could work for plants too, with tie on tags. But really, I think giving things to the kids while you are still kickin’ and can watch them enjoy the gift is the best of all. Why wait? As for the garden, they take pieces of it everytime they visit.
    Frances

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