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Thu Jun 13, 2013, 02:56 PM

 

Who Built This Garden?

Last edited Thu Jun 13, 2013, 03:51 PM - Edit history (2)




Looking out this year at the magnificence of my garden yard, it's tempting to take an undue share of the credit for its vigorous and unprecedented growth. It's lushness that's developed over the 13 years I've been working on it betrays very little of the trials and deaths of countless would-be companions and allies I tried to mesh with this glad and busy assortment of perennials, shrubs, trees, vines and other volunteers gathered so close together in this well-established 'woodland' habitat.

Gone forever, from the front of the house, is that marvelously perfect lawn that I had maintained with pride at the highest height that I could set my favorite lawnmower. It was a gratuitous and patronizing notice in the mail from the neighborhood association that my lawn needed cutting (my favorite lawnmower had died) which gave me the resolve to eliminate it altogether; and fill the space with anything but the short, butchered grass which so improbably makes up the vast majority of the flora which is grown on the long, sloping front yards in our nature-filled community and is polluting our signature lakes like they were farmlands- with their excesses of nitrogen, potassium, and other grass-growing chemicals.

In place of my vanquished trophy lawn is a refuge of plants of like and different varieties; daylilies; hostas; iris; campamula; black-eyed susans; Asian lilies; snakeroot; sundrops; loosestrife; euonymous; lamium; strawflower; butterfly bushes; ferns; clematis; lirope; trumpet vine; oakleaf hydrangeas; climbing hydrangeas; hydranga-hydrangeas; kerria; Japanese maple; forest-pansy redbud; witch-hazel; Harry-Lauder walking stick; diverse assortment of viburnums; astilbe; virginia creeper; phlox; poppy; ajuga; sweet flag; sunflowers; monarda; comphrey; mint; perennial geraniums; vinca; sedum; mondo grasses; other ornamental grasses of various sizes; peonies; barberry; bayberry; beautyberry; oxalis; assortment of perennial hibiscus; chinese lantern; crepe myrtle; azaleas; firebushes; goldenrod; ballonflower; hechuera; dianthus; lobelia; and the rest of my rescued annuals which were fortunate enough (or, not) to spend the winter inside - all of this suburban habitat opportunistically assembled for my big and little animal friends to congregate and propagate amongst the tangle of leaf, flower, berry, and branch.





My new neighbor asked me how much water his yard would need to grow and prosper. I told him that plants will send up new growth to match the nourishment and sustenance you're able to provide. More water and food means more growth, so, you're then obliged to continue to nurture that growth at the risk of withdrawing that support and abandoning your sprouts to the ravages of the elements.

Are we actually caretakers in this menagerie, or, are we merely antagonists bent on shuffling and scrambling nature about for our own edification? In mostly all of the natural world, we find most species adapted to an almost routine pattern of survival which advantages itself of every other instinct and expression of the environment - taking a bit of nature for themselves, here and there; giving another bit back, in return.

Does that nature manifest itself in the fox who found refuge for the majority of the day last winter (and warmth) on top of the pile of composting leaves at the back of my yard?

Or is that nature the providence of the family of rabbits who live (and, presumably, are killed) in the burrows under the bank of day lilies facing our driveway - the rabbit family that was the subject of the fox's intense hunt that I witnessed one night from an upstairs window; the garden predator weaving back and forth through the dense growth of foliage to find his innocent quarry?





Are the deer who also time-shared the same cramped but accommodating space of refuge during the winter days - who now migrate through the yard and forage on every bit of nutritious foliage and flower they can find - friends or ultimate enemies of this arranged habitat?

Is the hawk less welcome atop the heights of the dead pine in back than the chipmunks who perform their death-defying feats of seeming mischief and frivolity with little visible worry or fear of the threat from above?

Would that we could all be as enthusiastic and grateful for nature as the lowly caterpillar which has suddenly been transformed from a grub into a fluttering butterfly - able, at last, to explore and take advantage of the riches of nature from one garden to the next.

Maybe the ephemeral life of a butterfly wouldn't be such a smart trade-off. There's nothing at all which will ever completely ingratiate the former leaf-eater on a forced, slimmed-down diet with his nurtured, pollinated hosts. Yet, nature, by its own design, attracts and invites the obliging butterfly to become a vital and integral partner in the perpetuation of an important bit of what we call life on this planet.





Poet, John Ashbery ('Some Trees'), describes the accommodating mix of menagerie and flora as an arrangement of chance and opportunity:

These are amazing: each
Joining a neighbor, as though
Speech were a still performance.
Arranging by chance

To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I (and others)
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.

And glad not to have invented
Some comeliness,
we are surrounded:
A silence already filled with noises,
A canvas on which emerges

A chorus of smiles . . .
Place in a puzzling light,
and moving,
Our days put on such reticence
These accents
seem their own defense __


It is hard, but, not impossible, to imagine that all of this magnificence around us would occur without some hand in singling out new sprouts and nurturing, protecting, refereeing among their neighbors, and helping them take full advantage of the light, water, and nourishment that nature obligingly provides. Caretaking and nurturing them is as intimate as we humans can be with these miracles of nature, unable as we are to just root ourselves in the dirt and prosper like they do; plant our own feet that firmly in the ground and we would surely rot away with time.



Last year

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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 22 replies Author Time Post
Reply Who Built This Garden? (Original post)
bigtree Jun 2013 OP
OneGrassRoot Jun 2013 #1
bigtree Jun 2013 #4
JCMach1 Jun 2013 #2
malaise Jun 2013 #3
H2O Man Jun 2013 #5
bigtree Jun 2013 #22
Earth_First Jun 2013 #6
NRaleighLiberal Jun 2013 #7
EC Jun 2013 #8
The Velveteen Ocelot Jun 2013 #9
Tuesday Afternoon Jun 2013 #10
GoneOffShore Jun 2013 #11
timdog44 Jun 2013 #12
enough Jun 2013 #13
onethatcares Jun 2013 #14
bigtree Jun 2013 #15
Cha Jun 2013 #16
bigtree Jun 2013 #21
Hekate Jun 2013 #17
bigtree Jun 2013 #18
hwmnbn Jun 2013 #19
CakeGrrl Jun 2013 #20

Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 02:58 PM

1. BEAUTIFUL!

Thank you for taking the time to share that.



K&R


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Response to OneGrassRoot (Reply #1)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 04:44 PM

4. my pleasure, OGR

 

Last edited Fri Jun 14, 2013, 12:02 PM - Edit history (1)

thanks for dropping in!


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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 03:26 PM

2. love it

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 04:07 PM

3. An absolutely beautiful post

and a fabulous garden.

Thanks bigtree

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 05:13 PM

5. Wow!

Beautiful! An all-around beautiful post. Thank you for it.

In the 1940s, the woman who lived in my house planted flowers, shrubs, etc around the border of the lawn. Many are still in evidence today.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #5)

Sat Jun 15, 2013, 09:05 AM

22. I can relate to your '40's woman's legacy in your yard

 

We have similar root of old-fashioned varieties of plants which have endured from the time the home was built and the landscape lovingly nurtured. Great inspiration to have legacy plants as an outline. I'm a fan of your property (at least what I've seen in photos). We humans can do some good out there in the yard, from time to time, helping nature in its course.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 05:16 PM

6. Kudos!

I'm contemplating doing the same.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 05:17 PM

7. just superb - thanks for the gift that is your post and the pics.

I love it - we've gardened at our home for 20 years. Our back yard edge gardens are lush - and when I think of what they are lush with, it is that, out of the many perennials and shrubs we tried over the years, that decided it likes it here. The rest are long gone. Nature is deciding how to fill things in and what to fill them with.

We are known in our area as the weird tomato people, or those that have a rather weed-filled lawn (how dare they!) that actually looks fair when cut - I am sure people wonder why my veggies are so cared for, and lawn so neglected? (oh yes, and those tree hugging, commie, Obama voters who should go back to New England or wherever).....

We do create intrigue for our many right wing neighbors, that's for sure! They sure don't complain when we share a tomato or summer squash with them, though!

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 05:34 PM

8. I was just thinking that all the years I worked on my front garden

(I hate mowing and vowed to not do any more) that this year I finally had to do very little and it looked the lushest it ever has. Yours is beautiful and a beautiful story too. My bunnies seem to have the whole neighborhood now, since more and more people are putting in front gardens instead of grass. Just down the street is a veggie and flower garden now too. I've always snuck a zucchini plant or two in with the flowers and used lettuce to border.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 05:46 PM

9. Beautiful!

I am a strong believer in limiting or completely getting rid of turf grass lawns. They might look nice but they use a lot of water and most people over-fertilize them and use chemicals to get rid of weeds and grubs. A few years ago I had the grass removed from my small city lawn and have gradually replaced it with shrubs, perennial flowers and a few fruit trees. Once the plants establish themselves you don't have to do all that much weeding, and it's so much prettier than a plain old lawn. I've planted baptisia, a legume, near the apple and cherry trees so I don't have to fertilize them, and I bag my apples so I don't have to spray. I'm growing kale and squash in the front yard along with hibiscus and peonies and lots of bee- and butterfly-attracting flowers like butterfly weed and monarda. I've put up a bee house to attract native pollinating bees and a bat house to attract mosquito-eating bats. Trying to work with nature instead of fighting against it is so much more rewarding.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 05:48 PM

10. thank you for sharing you garden story. beautiful. K&R

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 05:59 PM

11. Brilliant and a lovely garden.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 06:04 PM

12. You have made my day.

Front yards should not be for grass. Neither should be back yards. I have two acres and my goal was to get to the point of not having a lawn mower in my possession. Alas, time and my back took me to task and I only got about 60% done and now I can not take care of it. Am sellling and moving to a smaller city lot. And I will think of you when I get there and start my goal again. I too am proud of what has happened in my acreage, and I can not take all the credit. It is a miracle. Put a seed in the ground and watch it do its thing. I am only the tool. It is why I consider the outdoors my church and my yard my temple.

What you have done is miraculous. You can not be blamed if you walk about with a little chip on your shoulder. I welcome all wildlife to my space. Although I have a hard time with raccoons. But even they have there place and uses and needs.

Thank you so much for what you have given me today.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 06:14 PM

13. I think about this quesiton all the time when I'm out there in it.

Lovely gardening, bigtree.


And here's a snip from another Ashbery poem ("Token Resistance" with a tree:

..........Originally
we werenít going to leave home. But made bold
somehow by the rain we put our best foot forward.

Now itís years after that. It
isnít possible to be young anymore.
Yet the tree treats me like a brute friend;
my own shoes have scarred the walk Iíve taken.



Thanks for the post.

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 06:15 PM

14. I cannot

leave this thread without telling you what a great job you've done.

Here in the sunny left coast of Florida plants have to be tough to make it, lawns take too much water and way too much work. Slowly I have been dipping my toes in the zeriscaping and vegetable growing way.

Keep up the good work, I'm pretty sure it looks amazing from the sky

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Thu Jun 13, 2013, 11:28 PM

15. thanks for the replies, folks!

 

Last edited Fri Jun 14, 2013, 11:51 AM - Edit history (2)

. . . man, do I love garden heads!


front yard

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri Jun 14, 2013, 12:25 AM

16. Wow, that is so beautiful, bigtree!

Just the kind of garden I like.. lots of different colors, sizes and shapes blended together.

Gorgeous, and the writing that goes along with it. So much more exponentially better than a lawn.

Thank you for sharing your secret garden with us. How peaceful and tranquil it looks.

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Response to Cha (Reply #16)

Sat Jun 15, 2013, 08:58 AM

21. the secret garden

 

. . . secret no more!

Glad to be able to share a small part of it with you, Cha. It's really a nice feeling to have loved the lawn so much and to just reverse course and leave it behind for all the good reasons. Life's a garden, Cha!

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri Jun 14, 2013, 04:18 AM

17. So lovely. The ladies down the block have an artistic veg garden in front....

... as do others within a few blocks of us. A friend across town has made her front yard into what looks like a wildflower refuge. I've done as much as I can to get rid of the grass my husband stopped mowing years ago, and with the help of my wildflower friend have planted fruit trees and scattered flower seeds in front. Mine is not as good as hers, but I hope to get there before I get planted myself!

Thanks for sharing your beautiful story and garden with us!

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri Jun 14, 2013, 09:03 AM

18. one more kick

 

Last edited Fri Jun 14, 2013, 11:45 AM - Edit history (1)

. . . god knows I'd just post about the garden if DU could handle that . . .


front yard

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri Jun 14, 2013, 11:10 AM

19. Very nice!!

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Response to bigtree (Original post)

Fri Jun 14, 2013, 11:29 AM

20. Very nice. A lot of work went into that!

I know from the relatively puny number of plants and planters I maintain around my condo.

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