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It’s Your (Gardening) Thing


I don’t know the names of all of the plants in my garden.

There, I said it.

I’m not bragging, mind you, nor am I apologizing. It is simply a fact of the way I garden. I don’t necessarily recommend deliberately throwing away or conveniently losing plant identification tags. I don’t advise leaving blank the pages of that fancy garden journal you received for Christmas. I don’t suggest you fail to take photographs of your precious rare specimens. I just know that these things happen, mainly because they occasionally happen to me. Okay, okay, perhaps frequently.

And you know what? I’m a fairly smart guy. I can show you my college diploma if you’ll give me a few days to track it down. (It’s in the same squashed box with my high school sheepskin. I think. Time to move those things to a new box. I’ll take care of it next week.) You want references?
I got references, too, baby. There are people—more than one, I’m sure—who would be willing to vouch for my prowess vis-a-vis things horticultural. With enough time, I could more than likely (I’m thinking 70 or 80 percent probability here) remember who these people are and, given an extension, I could come up with phone numbers, addresses, and other vital statistics. Like whether they’re relatives or clients or whether we’re still on speaking terms—you know, that sort of thing.

Unlike going to work and raising your kids and, to some degree, paying your taxes, gardening is something you can stop at any time if it isn’t giving you pleasure. I’m not talking about mowing the lawn, either. That isn’t gardening. I lump that in the same category as paying your taxes. I’m talking about the joy and solitude and peace and satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that one receives from gardening.

So, if your horticultural joy has begun to shrivel like an under-watered petunia, try my “Soul Gardening” approach. Here’s how it works.

Can’t get rid of all of your weeds or perhaps can’t even identify which plants are weeds? The solution is simple. Let ‘em grow. Here’s my dirty little secret—if it looks halfway good, it can usually find a place in my garden. For example, I like purslane. Hey, you can even eat it. And while I’ve never made dandelion wine, I’ve been told by one of my soil specialist friends that some of the best dirt there is can be found around the roots of that much maligned plant. I do draw the line, however, at garlic mustard and other obscenely invasive plants.

Got holes in your hostas? Pretend it’s a new cultivar: ‘Swiss Hosta’.

Can’t make yourself plant “drifts” because you want one of everything? Tell those design snobs, “Drift this, Pal.”

Forgot to plant your seeds this spring? Buy seedlings from your local nursery or home improvement store. A six-pack of marigolds costs less than a six-pack of beer and lasts a lot longer. And why the hell are you trying to grow marigolds from seed, anyway?

Read somewhere that it’s not elegant to plant things in a straight line, but you like straight lines? I say, put those puppies in like soldiers or streetlights. Do you think the Garden Police are going to start writing tickets?

Didn’t get around to deadheading? Oh, well, have a glass of lemonade and think of all the volunteers you’ll have next year.You dig?

Growing things is a miracle. It should make us happy.

It’s your garden. Do what you wanna do.

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I have two 20-year-old pine trees whose needles are turning brown on the west side of the plants. On the east side I have a compost pile.

I live in the St. Charles region and my soil is mostly clay. What is causing the browning? Should I get rid of the compost? How do I correct the damage?

I have two 3-year-old rose of Sharon plants, about 20 feet apart. One blooms every year. The other plant forms about 100 buds and looks healthy, but it has not bloomed in the last two years. The buds are solidly closed and look as if they are rotting from the inside out. There does not seem to be any sign of insects on the plant. What is this problem?

What trends do you see in container plantings, such as type of pot, materials, sun or shade, foliage or flowers.

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