Creating your dream garden only has to please one person: you. Large or small it’s all what you want it to be.
Creating your dream garden happens when you open your eyes and you take in your surroundings. look around you. What do you imagine seeing? What are your favorite plants? Have you learned what your light situation is in your garden?
If you are new to a property, I encourage people to try to wait to make major changes. They need to go through seasons to see what’s already there. That is not to say of course, that if they need professional tree work, they should ignore that because I don’t think you should. Or if there are certain types of plants that you just don’t like, take them out. I did that when we settled on the home we’re in now. Either the day after or the day of settlement someone with a big chain on a truck helped me pull out yew bushes that covered first floor windows.
The whole thing I try to impart about gardening most of all is just to try. Gardening is kind of like cooking, and as my late father always said if you can read, you can do either one.
As I have said before, I am not some master gardener, and I do not actually belong to a garden club. I do belong to some plant related groups, but ditched one for good recently. Why? Simple. Their president called me a bitch in an email. That is not very garden or people friendly, and there are things that you don’t say to women especially in a professional capacity. So he can keep his group. It’s been a bizarre and mostly unpleasant experience since I joined. And it is a shame, I love hostas and was so excited to join. But they are not a particularly friendly bunch. I don’t pretend to be a perfect human being, but when a supposedly professional person and head of an organization does this? Time to move along. And not refer the group to anyone.
This is not uncommon, sadly. I know a few women who wanted to join garden clubs. But they were given a time because they had corporate jobs and couldn’t take off in the middle of the day to be ladies who lunch. Once in a while, they could do that if it worked with their corporate schedule, but that wasn’t good enough.
There were a couple of garden clubs and another plant society I was checking out. They asked me to speak. But in three different cases replaced me with someone else, and didn’t even tell me. The only reason I found out is I circled back and check in on the date I was invited to speak, and I got this well I’m sorry we asked somebody else and a phrase that I hate more than anything, “you understand.” Well no I didn’t. I wasn’t charging them a fee for speaking because they are non-profits, but common courtesy is a thing. As a result I am reluctant to commit to these asks now, and rarely do.
Many people, women especially, have said to me, this is why they won’t join plant societies, and garden clubs. This makes me sad because gardening is such a happy thing. And there are some awesome groups out there. You can also join arboretums and support them. In the area where I live my favorite is Jenkins Arboretum.
This is why I just encourage people to just garden and try. Even if they’re in a small space. You don’t have to belong to a special group to garden, just garden. Groups can come later if you find a particular plant passion, they aren’t a gardening requirement.
I lived in a garden apartment once upon a time. I even had a small garden there. Now granted, a lot of what I had there were in pots and because I didn’t have a lot of space, so I gardened a lot in containers and even mounted cute little pots on a fence. but I did plant two trees, Japanese maples, that I still believe exist to this day. And when I started to garden, other residents started to garden, and it made the property look better, because trust me, the apartment buildings themselves, we’re not going to win any architectural awards.
I have taken to my gardening blog to encourage more people to garden, and to date you all have been very receptive and kind. Gardening is a total joy, no matter what your level of expertise.
I love gardening books because they give me ideas. I am a visual person. I like the way something looks and then I wonder can I apply that to my garden? I even keep a board on Pinterest just for garden ideas. And Pinterest is a great resource for stuff like that because it gives you a visual. of course a lot of the gardens you see photographs of our completely perfect. And as much as I love my garden, it is not perfect.
Take a few days ago, for example. Friends of mine came for some extra canna bulbs I had and they were looking at the garden. They thought it looked wonderful and all I kept seeing was all the bishops weed that cropped up overnight after the rain.
And I will admit, I find weeds so disheartening. Sometimes you just look at them and wonder how they can have the nerve to grow when you work so hard to make a beautiful space. But if I take the time to work a little bit every day I can deal with them. However I wear long gloves, and long pants when I’m waiting and I use tick spray.
I always wear gloves when I am weeding, because even though I do pay to have poison ivy removed, it crops up, and I am very allergic to it. Poison ivy is one of those things that I actually pay to have removed from the property. Look, there are some things I can’t be penny wise and pound foolish on. Poison ivy is one of them, the other are our trees.
As far as mulch goes, I do not believe in colored mulch. It comes off on your hands, it comes off on your feet, it comes off on you, the feet of your pets and more. Black mulch is not found in nature and I don’t know why people think it looks good, because it even smells. I use predominantly the chips that are chipped from my trees. I don’t use wood chips from diseased trees. Those are removed. On some woodland beds but not underneath my native fur trees as I’ve mentioned before I use pine straw mulch.
A lot of these things I have discovered by trial and error. Well, except for dyed mulch and tree work, that has never changed for me.
I feel like gardens are in evolution, and they change and grow over time. Just as well as humans change and grow. once you’ve been gardening in one particular space for a while, you start to see other possibilities, and it’s OK. There are plenty of plants. I have rehomed over time because I just didn’t like them in my garden.
Planting a garden and planning a garden is a long game. Sure you can hire someone to create an instant gratification space, but that is not really gardening. Seriously, you literally need to get your hands dirty and muck in. Below you see a photo. Two views of the same planting bed today and when I started this bed in 2018.
This year I have done a few bed extensions. One I actually did in January and it needs more wood chips and a couple of others have been extending the edges of existing beds just a little bit. I have added some new hydrangeas and some other things.
Now let’s talk about hydrangeas for a second. If you live in Southeastern Pennsylvania, like I do or even close by, we had a early severe flash freeze before Christmas. Then we were cold, but never is cold again, then we were unusually warm. Then we were cold again and as a result, a lot of my hydrangeas have experienced serious, die back. Now that spring seems to finally be here for real. I am starting to see where things are leafing out, I am cutting off the dead. I am still wondering how much bloom I will be sacrificing this year because of what happened in December.
Other plants I’m not sure about are my little fig trees. I haven’t cut them to the ground yet, but I may have lost a couple except last year when I thought I had lost them and I cut them to the ground. They grew up again, so right now I’m ignoring them.
And weeding. Have I mentioned HOW much I hate weeding? Well I do. And the weeds are crazy so far this spring!
Like any other gardener I am sometimes discouraged by my own space. I just look at it sometimes and there’s just so much work and I’m only one person. so I try to do a little bit every day, but sometimes I just don’t.
Gardening is my joy, and I love to share what I learn, but seriously? Even I have days. And I have the past couple of days. I know I should be getting more done but I am just not, so it will have to do for now. Gardening can be more of a solitary endeavor in my house, as in me. It’s not necessarily a family affair.
And when I get discouraged, I adopt other little projects around the garden that don’t necessarily involve things. I hate like weeding. I recently decided to take one of my outdoor rugs, which is essentially made of plastic and create almost a weird little living room space in the back of my shade and woodland beds in the back. I think I like it. And having this rug down on the wood chips, isn’t going to hurt anything, and will actually suppress weeds!
I realize morning I had never finished this post. Today I am feeling extremely disheartened because we had basically a three day rain bomb and I know we needed the rain but I will have to wait to really enjoy my tree peonies again next year because they just pummeled them with raindrops.
This morning I found a random robins egg with no nearby nest. I planted some lily bulbs that my friend Rose sent me from Minnesota. and I trimmed the dogwood’s lower branches I could reach because it’s time to start pruning it up. I also noticed, with some dismay that sapsuckers have been pecking at the trunk.
One of my favorite things in the morning is listening to the bluebirds. But honestly, I have so much work ahead of me in this garden, it is a bit daunting right now. And I hate asking my husband for help but he’s going to have to help me with some of it and hopefully the grumbling won’t be too bad.
Anyway, that’s it for me. I think I will plant my potatoes. I’ve been chitting out later today in pots. I think I will start them next to the greenhouse so they can go inside until the cooler nights have passed.
And I will have to tell you what is really stupendously happy in the garden or the clematis! They are growing like crazy! I have one that has practically taken over the front porch.
And the first bare root rose of the season arrived from David Austin. Her name is Emily Brontë. Her other relatives will arrive soon!
Happy gardening! Just try to garden, you will surprise yourself at how well you do l!
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.~ Robert Frost
Thanks for this pep talk of a post! I’m in the planning stages of my garden and it is daunting! Better to just plow ahead and worry about mistakes later. Progress over perfection, they say. I read all your posts and enjoy your gardening enthusiasm and encouragement. Keep up the good work. Oh, and thanks for being real. Glad to know you have some off days, as I tend to be a very fair weather gardener!
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