I start with the song birds. They are one of my favorite parts of my garden! Yesterday, they were singing up a storm!
Today I listened to a Garden Design zoom lecture. The speaker was Fergus Garrett from my bucket list of gardens to visit in England called Great Dixter.
Fergus spoke to us about succession planting. A layered garden. He discussed a lot about balance between bedding plants, and self sowers. Perennials and annuals. Layered gardens always give you something to look at. I’m not an expert, just a home gardener, but I say that all of the time! (But my husband will tell you it’s just my excuse to cram in more plants!)
Above is his simple graphic and ideas for a long season. He did stress that a garden isn’t just born out of going to lectures and looking at books . You do have to get out an experiment and play with your garden.
I’m not trying to drive you all crazy with screenshots from a zoom presentation, but I took these screenshots as inspiration.
Fergus had a slide which offered the following advice:
- Grow the plants that do well for you.
- It’s the concept you are copying and then adjusting to suit your climate and conditions.
- The system is flexible. You can scale up or down. It can be waterwise and low maintenance mimicking layers in your natural environment.
Above is sage advice. I wish I could follow it all of the time. I try, but I also want to experiment. And I think experimenting is fine. And this particular advice above people had a hard time with. I saw question after question about what did he mean by copying the concept. Succession gardening and/or layered gardening is a style or concept. It’s not about being identical to what Fergus Garret has done at Great Dixter or what David Culp has done at Brandywine Cottage or what Jenny Rose Carey has done with Northview Gardens, citing just a few examples. The concept is just that, the ideas you gather and apply to your garden.
Your garden is best as YOUR garden, not anyone else’s. I take my inspirations and apply it to my garden. My plantings are not the plantings of others per se, they are inspired by others. That is why I always feel it is important to do as much of your own gardening as possible.
I am a prolific garden book and garden magazine hoarder. But they inspire me, provide me with information and knowledge. But my implementation? All on me. Including the successes and failures. A garden is an evolution, including an evolution of self. I keep a rudimentary hand written garden journal, but my record keeping there is haphazard. I keep a garden journal here on this blog after a fashion. But yes, a lot of it lives in my head until it comes out of my hands when I plant.
What I was reminded of again today with this lecture is we need to watch our gardens through the seasons and pay attention to what your garden is telling you, showing you. It will give you the holes from season to season that you can plug with plants for interest during different seasons, add bulbs, and make you aware of things that maybe you should rearrange, split, or move altogether. I also think people moving to new homes with new gardens need to give their new gardens a bit of time so they can see what is there. I will note I did not completely follow my own advice for my current garden because it was so terribly overgrown when we moved here. I had to rip things out and start fresh. But I know enough about plants to know what I didn’t want, so I needed to make room for creating what I saw in my mind’s eye.
Gardening is not about competition, although to an extent all gardeners can be competitive. Gardening is about the magic. Each garden is as individualistic as the garden owner. There is something to be said about the element of letting plants do their thing. It’s nature, people, and there is only so much forcing you can or should do.
Fergus reminded us that we as gardeners can extend the seasons in our gardening beds with a lot of work, or very little work. It’s about what works for us, or sometimes just how life happens in a garden. I admire Fergus for stating plainly he is a visual person when choosing plants, that you can’t just decide on a plant looking at a tiny “mug shot” in a catalog, book, or on a website. It’s about observing. Visiting other gardens and seeing what others are planting, helps. Seeing a plant live even in a nursery and grouping it with others to get a feel.
When you study your own garden, it will tell you what do do, if you listen. Mind you that is a Carlaism in the garden. When I don’t listen to my garden, Mother Nature will indeed remind me who is actually boss. But as I keep saying, a garden is a study of evolution.. A garden isn’t just for people, it’s for plants, and critters. Today we also learned about the importance of biodiversity and how layered gardens and succession planting help greatly with that.
Fergus also spoke about paying attention to plant growth rates. Plants can misbehave and become thugs. You know, like my most unfavorite weed, Bishop’s Weed / Goutweed / Ground Elder. And pachysandra. And forsythia. Paying attention to growth rates means I have also had to relocate shrubs and perennials around the garden.
I learn with every season. Like one of my takeaways of the summer of 2022: cannas can adapt to drought conditions and grow even bigger. My cannas also taught me I can never give enough of their tubers away and this year they are going more in the back of beds. I am thinking of letting them compete with the forsythia hedge that is not mine, but a neighbors. I am planting heaps of those tubers right in front of the forsythia, which is in the back of a bed. I am also going to get on my pussy willows more immediately after they bloom so I can keep them more tidy. And I have areas of the woods eyed out to receive fern transplants. I may never achieve English countryside woods, but I am going to keep planting ferns further and further out because they do compete with weeds.
Today with the talk on layered gardening and succession planting I was reminded how they add to the seasons. I love having a four seasons garden. It’s not perfect but I do have things to look at every season of the year now. Today I was also reminded to integrate more annuals and self-sowers. Self- sowers do require maintenance because you do not want them taking over areas of the garden, but it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t have them.
And long season plants are also important for our gardens. The thing about them that makes them so awesome is they have a different look depending upon the season. And they bridge the gaps with other plants. This is why people will think I am crazy for visiting certain gardens and arboretums so often, but you go at different times of the year and you look. It helps.
Just like the garden lectures now available via Zoom. I am a great fan of David Culp’s talks. But then again, it’s no secret I am a great fan of David himself. Which leads me to something I love that is returning in person, The Galanthus Gala! I discovered this event completely by accident and I love it. Galanthus or snowdrops are not my specific passion, but they are a part of my garden and I love to learn. This event is about galanthus, but also so much more! Every year there are amazing speakers and this year Lady Mary Keen is among them via Zoom. I have a couple of her gardening books and I have read many articles penned by her over the years! She is someone I am very excited to listen to and hopefully learn from. And did I mention the carefully chosen plant vendors? As in amazing plants people? OH YES.
Here is the list of vendors and you have heard me mention quite a few of them:
Look Again Garden
Scratching Post Gardens
Hershey Tree Project
and John O’Brien
I am but a beginner and rank amateur when it comes to many of the special people I have met in this wonderful world of gardening. But you will never meet a friendlier, more hospitable bunch. I am really so excited to back to the Galanthus Gala in person. It was literally the last event we went to before COVID set in and upended all of our lives. What am I looking for from the vendors? Oh I always have a running wish list, and the plants will tell me when I meet them, of course.
You can order tickets BY CLICKING HERE.
Fri, Mar 3, 2023, 4:00 PM – Sat, Mar 4, 2023, 3:30 PM EST
Downingtown Friends Meetinghouse 800 East Lancaster Avenue Downingtown, PA 19335
Anyway, what else? The galanthus are coming up all over and the little crocuses I planted in the lawn. My early daffodils are budding like gangbusters and I wonder what will the crazy weather do next? And then I *may* have placed a couple of more small plant orders. Just a couple of things I have been thinking about while walking around my garden.
Other things? Garden podcasts. I listen to a variety here and there on Spotify. Among my favorites? The Garden History Podcast with Advolly Richmond. And BBC Gardeners World Podcast, BBC Gardeners’ Corner Ulster, Diaries of a Lady Gardener, Master My Garden Podcast, and more. There are LOTS of gardening podcasts, mostly good, some truly head scratching. The best gardening podcasts in my opinion are the UK exports.
The recent Master My Garden Podcast ironically featured PHS’s Andrew Bunting. Bunting spoke about the Philadelphia Flower Show among other things. He compared it to shows like Chelsea. Sadly, it’s not. It’s inside, more vendors than actual horticultural displays. I liked when PHS went outside the past couple of years with the flower show. It was terrific. I do not like the Pennsylvania Convention Center, so I won’t be going this year since they moved it back inside. People get vexed with me when I criticize the flower show at the Convention Center, but I really do not enjoy it there any longer.
I did like the Philadelphia Flower Show at the Convention Center at first, but then the prices kept going up and the vendors increasing and the horticultural displays shrinking. And when I did buy plants there, the quality wasn’t what it used to be, for example the peony roots I bought from Peony’s Envy in New Jersey. I dropped a pretty penny on peony roots at the flower show the past couple of years that did not thrive from Peony’s Envy. That’s why I have gotten peony picky. Among my favorites growers (if you are interested) are Mountain Flower Farm , Brandemore Specialties , Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market, Black Creek Greenhouses in East Earl, PA and BloomBox.
Well that is it for me. I am going to go watch more of Call The Midwife. I have to catch up before the next season launches.
I have also been disappointed by the prices and performance of peonies at the flower show (in the interest of disclosure I work there every year) but amazingly have gotten some pretty great peony plants at Costco!
Excellent post – and I really hope you asked for permission to use and post Fergus’ images and notes.
I doubt you would have been so offensive with a traditional journalist.
I took my own notes, I wrote about what he discussed and added my own thoughts. And my own photos of my plants.
Those screenshots are benign and Garden Design and Jim knew I wrote this because I sent it to them when I said thank you for a great talk .
Not that any of this is your business in the first place.
Yes ouch and well deserved especially when I received a thank you from Jim at Garden Design. This was a talk meant to educate, not proprietary design plans.