Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gardeners in the Wild

Deschampsia flexuosa (common hairgrass) at Dolly Sods in West Virginia

Deschampsia flexuosa (common hairgrass growing at my house

I love to visit plants in their native habitat, especially plants I am growing or that I might be inspired to grow. The topmost picture is of a grass called Deschampsia flexuosa (common hairgrass)growing in its native habitat at Dolly Sods in West Virginia. As a gardener I was thrilled to see this infrequently used ornamental grass growing in the wild, because I have been using it in my garden (as seen in the bottom picture). Being a fledgling rock gardener I also admired this rockery and thought how I might be able to recreate something inspired by it in my own garden. When I saw this modest little clump of Deschampsia flexuosa growing in the rockery I also thought I ought to try using it more subtly than my mass planting, particularly in a rockery, which I just happen to have in development. I also took a bunch of pictures of other cool plants at Dolly Sods that I am keeping in the back of my mind as potential garden plants.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ongoing Lessons in Gardening

A cheddar pink in its glory.

The same cheddar pink under attack.

Another system of gardening.

Look at the middle picture of the my beautiful mass of cheddar pink being engulfed in weeds that are nearly impossible to remove. One might say that the lesson I should learn is to keep up with my edging or to keep this vulnerable plant isolated. But the answer to what I did wrong is dependent upon the system of gardening that I chose to use. This is something that is difficult to explain to the many gardeners who call us at Kingwood Center with questions of what they should do differently following failures, especially after enjoying a few years of success such as I had (see top picture).

Garden decisions follow from the system of gardening we choose. This is a simple fact overlooked by many gardeners such as those who want the roses that also happen to be black spot susceptible, or want lovely apples, or want some common insect's favorite food but don't want to spray or won't learn to spray properly.

Some garden systems avoid the problem I had by making every plant in the garden an isolated specimen (see bottom picture) or by regularly scheduled maintenance techniques such as edging. Having rejected both of those approaches in my own garden I am obliged, therefore to know more about how plants in close proximity interact with each other. This seems to me to be a more interesting approach in which gardens are orchestrated intertwining masses of vegetation. Clearly my plant placement decision was not consistent with my choice of gardening system. So my lesson could be to change my system(such as by edging or changing the garden lay-out), but a better lesson for me is to do a better job with my system by finding more compatible neighboring plants for this cheddar pink.