Monday, June 22, 2009

Know Your Seedlings

I was weeding my garden the other day and was surprised to see a few score of an unfamiliar seedling which I thought to be a strangely odd weed. After pulling a few I stopped to think and realized they were seedlings of the nearby Gillena trifoliata (Bowman's Root)(seedling and mature plant pictured above). It was a pleasant surprise to have such a desirable plant self seeding. I have grown it in that garden for years and this was the first time I noticed its seedlings. Perhaps I wasn't so heavy on the mulch this year. Coincidentally a few days later I read a brief interview with English horticulturist Noel Kingsbury. He was asked for his top gardening tip, which he gave as, "Get to know what plants in your garden self-seed, so you can recognize the seedlings and not weed them out. Then watch a natural, dynamic process take over." I would add a qualifier to that and say watch the natural, dynamic process take over with caution. I have many times been thrilled to see something self-seeding only to later curse its abundance and difficulty to control.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Flattering Pictures Hide the Dirty Little Secrets

These little thumbnails really need to be clicked upon for better viewing.

The two pictures above are from the garden I have been working on the longest in my eleven growing seasons in my current home. They were taken this spring (2009)and they both demonstrate a degree of success in achieving my goals with the garden and conveniently hide the frustrating failures. I want the garden to invite the viewer to walk into the garden, not just look at it from afar. Once in the garden the visitor should be enveloped by a flush of various heights, colors, textures, and forms that offer interest to the overview and to the detailed inspection. Where I have failed to complete this goal I have either planted a jumble that looks weedy, or my plantings have not yet coalesced, because I planted too few plants, or they just haven't had time to grow to full size. The jumble is the hardest to fix because I can't bear to get rid of otherwise good plants, and it is hard to tell what to remove when everything is dormant. As I write this I realize I just need to accept the fact that the worst jumble in this garden needs a total reconfiguration. I tell people to be brutal; I need to take my own advice.