Location: Unincorporated Pierce County, WA Zone 7b
posted 3 years ago
Over the last three years, I've learned that the key to being a good gardener and property owner is the willingness to do some big edits rather than throw good effort after bad. Sometimes a plant doesn't want to grow there. Sometimes it wants to grow too well.
Today was a day of big edits. Some of the mistakes were my predecessors'. Some were mine.
I joyfully pulled out a few ornamental shrubs that were really serving no real purpose, including to the wildlife. Some were ones I planted and realized they were terrible decisions (i.e. a butterfly bush before I knew they were invasive).
I inherited a row of well-behaved clumping bamboo that thrives in a little clump over in a gravely part of my driveway. Last year, I got my sawzall out and transplanted some to be part of a hedge. What was the first thing it did in nice, soft, well-mulched soil? RUN LIKE CRAZY. So, given that I put it on a fence line with my neighbor, that had to go.
The one really big mistake was putting some comfrey where I decided I just didn't want it. Oops. Well, I'll just keep digging it up and putting it where I DO want it.
The saddest one was cutting down a plum tree that went from brimming with health to totally dead in about six weeks, like due to heavy June rains. Swales + plum trees + maritime climate maybe not a great design idea after all. (sob).
There were a few others. A couple of things that got ripped out for failure to thrive or were just out of place and jarring. Once it was done, I felt a huge wave of relief. Design and aesthetic problems acknowledged, faced, and addressed. Every time I do this, I get a better picture of the design *my* property needs and make better decisions each planting season.
It's OK to acknowledge your really super awesome idea didn't work out in reality like on paper or in your head and edit as needed.
We've been slowly 'editing' the mistakes the previous owners make. Having to take out a plant because it straight out died is much easier, both manually and emotionally, than having to cut back and dig out something because it has just done too well.
I'm keeping a close eye on the native frog frog fruit which I've been encouraging in my front beds as a ground cover. This is the first year where I've had it cover enough ground to really feel like it's living up to it's potential. If I can't keep it in my garden, I'll probably try transplanting it to use as a lawn replacement. The deciding factor is going to be whether it plays nicely with the garden plants. Nice thing, if it's too aggressive for the garden it might actually stand a chance against the grass.
Some changes suggest themselves while others come with knowledge or a change in focus.
I hate to kill any plant though we do it all the time when we call them weeds.
My neighbours have just taken down a conifer that was in my garden. I didn't want to kill it when we moved into this house but I didn't want to leave it where it was either, so I put it at the bottom of my garden. It got a bit tall and they didn't like it and asked to cut it down.
I've just done a forest gardening course, came home and in an instant decided that a hedge I have nurtured, again from plants I didn't want to kill just because, had to go so that I can plant something edible in it's place. The hedge is high maintenance and does nothing for the aesthetic qualities of the garden, nor does it provide food for me or the birds. I'll plant something 'better' in it's place.
A garden should be an ever changing landscape that meets changing needs or focus. I'm hoping to establish a wildflower lawn on my tiny bit of lawn and go 'no mow'. As ideologies change, so do our gardens.
(I learnt French Intensive, all that double digging)!
Great thread! This really speaks as to why we call it Gardening instead of growing.
One of my best ever customers changed her gardens by the seasons, her thoughts were pretty simple, when it doesn't look "pretty" anymore it is time to change.
In her front yard she wanted some raised spiral beds, we put in very nice ones made of native rock, there was no soil exposed in the spirals.
She came out and asked me why it was all rock and I reminded her that she had specified that these beds would be changed up every month or so.
Then I told her that this way we could come in with potted plants and it would be less expensive and time consuming to change things up for her.
Once she understood the why we built them the way we did, she decided we should change them up every two weeks when we came to mow.
Her neighbors saw what was happening at her house and it wasn't long before we were serving all of her neighbors as well.
I think change can be good all the way around.
At my farm nothing but the vineyard is not in constant flux, even the orchard keeps getting bigger.
We rotate all our vegetable crops yearly to keep bugs down to a dull roar.