For some gardeners there comes a defining moment, the Aha!, Eureka!, the Epiphany, the window has opened, the lightbulb has illuminated, the veil has been lifted. (That last one was a post.) The corner has been turned, our eyes can now see the truth of it. This feeling came to me as I was reading the Piet Oudolf/Noel Kingsbury book, .
A lifetime of gardening was under my belt, thousands of plants had been grown, by seed, by division, from purchases, from passalongs, and some just grew in our gardens by themselves. Always learning, always striving to make the space in which we were living, be it Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, California, Texas or Tennessee, in two different locations, prettier, better, right.
But there was something missing from all of these endeavors Pre-Piet, a philosophy that encompassed the why of it. What was the vision, and more importantly, how did the vision fit into the natural world around us? (Above: The Lurie in Millenium Park, Chicago, Illinois, a Piet designed garden.)
was the prescription spectacles that allowed the garden to come into focus. We could see it clearly now, armed with the information and photos found in the text. We could now work with, rather than against what Nature has intended. (Above: Also from The Lurie.)
All human gardening is a battle against the evolution of birth, death, decay and regrowth of botanical beings that are preordained to sprout, grow, flower, reproduce and die. Ecosystems follow their own rules with lichens breaking down rocks, making way for grasses, then herbaceous plants, shrubs and finally trees. It works very well, thank you, without our interference.
We can try to reorder these innate growth patterns, but it will always and forever be temporary, our efforts. In an astonishly short time, all will revert back to the wildness, the grand plan that cannot be altered.
And so it seems, that instead of doing battle against, we should work with the design of the universe already in place. Let us plant like nature does. The best way to learn how to do that is to look around at unimproved areas. Go out into the countryside and observe. Take notes and photos. What is growing where, how do the different plants relate to each other? Pay attention to the growing conditions, be they wet or dry, sunny or shaded, rocky or sandy or brick building clay.
Incorporate what you have learned into your landscape. Plant in drifts but let the plants weave together. Allow the dead and dormant stalks to stand and reseed. Train your eye to see the beauty of frost on the remains of the growing season. To some degree, let it be. Do not spray chemicals that will remove the wildlife from the growing equation. Be vigilant about invasives, if you want to pretend you have some control. Remember it will all revert to its own destiny when you turn your back.