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The Long View

When I first started gardening, it was great fun seeing what would or wouldn't grow.  I collected cacti and scented geraniums (pelargoniums), and had a wide assortment of culinary herbs.   Little forethought went into any design or view of the yard as a whole, and you would have been hard pressed to call it a garden.  Playin' outside is exactly what I've always done, with little attention paid to the longer view of gardening - design.

Gaining proficiency in propagation and some skill in keeping plants alive did not lend cohesion to my chaos.  Local garden centers never talked about design but were always happy to feed my addiction to the new and unusual.  Being a master gardener put me in the company of others who shared my fascination, but who also rarely if ever discussed design.  So I gathered more plants but it's fair to say my yard looked MUCH better in close ups.   Chaos continued to reign. A gardening friend calls it "cramscaping".

It's not until I began to see design concepts repeated in both private and larger public gardens that I developed a creeping discomfort with the chaos at home.  Creeping discomfort became shame as I learned the depth of my garden's serious deficiency.  Design had seeped into my brain enough to know I didn't have it.  Books reinforced the idea that a lot of money and labor would be required, and that made it seem all the more unattainable at home.  If only I'd known at the beginning how much money a design, a longer view, would've saved.

But two things happened.  It became clear what my overall interest is and I began to hang out with a group of garden bloggers.

First, the bloggers.  There's a larger group of nearly 100 who meet up in different cities once a year to visit public and private gardens.  Seeing all those gardens over the past 12 years, and forming friendships with the bloggers from all over the world, has affected me and my approach to my own little garden.  We actually talk about design.  We see examples of incredibly well-designed gardens.  From that group, we also have a smaller local group who get together monthly.  More than anything, this has probably been my best resource for how to improve - as a gardener and as a person.
Then there's my biggest reason for gardening.  I want to feed pollinators throughout the seasons and provide host plants for their young.  This gave me focus.  That cool plant doesn't feed pollinators or serve as a host plant?  I probably don't need it - unless it's a deep rosy chocolate color and evergreen.  I'm still always on the lookout for those.
Step by step, literally brick by brick and one stone at a time, garden beds have grown from the fences in.  The pond anchors the back and a mulched path now pulls the eye from one side of the lot to the other.  Where you would naturally begin to look for the next point of interest, something is usually there to pull you on - a bit of metalwork whimsy, a limestone snake, or a big blue pot. 
On the side where the fruit trees and herb garden grow, it's still the land of the big green clumps.   It's challenging because fruit trees and herbs tend to be green.  Yes, up closer you can see the interesting bits and have fun smelling all the herbs.  But from a distance, it's easy to imagine getting lost in there.  Construction continues ...
My education in design is being made easier by a local series of talks by renowned landscape designers.  It's called Garden Spark and is the inspired idea of Pam Penick, author of several gardening books, a founder of our annual Garden Bloggers Fling, and a dear friend.  Whether you need help with design concepts, or just like to hang out with people who speak your language, Garden Spark is your answer.

This year's Fling is coming up, and I can barely wait to see old friends and gather new ideas.  Who knows?  I may find the cure for big green clumps. 
 All material © 2019 by Vicki Blachman for Playin' Outside. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.


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