I have a young and active client with three very active children. Her daily schedule makes mine seem sedate. She ferries kids, entertains friends, and maintains very active family relationships. When I can catch up to her, she is strong minded and decisive about a beautiful landscape. Every year we do something. We did plant a run of Belgian fence for her a few years ago-she harvests and eats those pears. Whenever we get there to prune them back into shape is ok with her. If she has to search for her pears in a tangle of foliage-so be it. Only very rarely does an emergency arise in her garden.
CC has an uncanny ability to decide when to fuss, and when to go with the flow. Make no mistake-this is a very valuable skill. She knows how to get through a day. This means that she is content to let nature take its course-as opposed to opposing whatever nature has in store. I have been known to throw myself at every issue in my garden like I have but 10 minutes to live. I so admire how she coolly and adeptly assesses a situation, and acts. Or not. The “or not” part is a choice, actually. My friend Janet came to see my garden at 7 am this morning. Buck was a little appalled about entertaining at that hour. But we both had watering to do-before it gets hot. We were sitting in the garden when she asked me if I ever sat in the garden. I do every day, after work. For a little while. Then there are things to do. We both make a fuss. The car pictured above obviously belongs to an obsessed gardener I know and like who would put put his top down, and ever so slowly drive a group of giant dahlias home.
CC is not at all that way. Once she has made a decision about what she wants me to plant for her, she never touches, grooms, feeds, or otherwise interferes with what I have planted. In September, I stop by and see that every plant in her pots has interacted, and grown together. Not one plant has been trimmed, deadheaded, or groomed. Miraculously, this lack of intervention on her part works beautifully. This window box was planted in the early years of the store. The shop consumed so much time there was little left over to put to this box except to water. Did I like it then-not so much? I greatly appreciate it now.
An absentee attitude is a good thing on occasion. That which nature provides, or doesn’t has charm and appeal. Every plant has a space to start with. They duke it out, and come to some agreement. The begonias may be miffed that she does not cut off those dead flower heads every day, but they keep on growing. This pot of mine is is a little heavy on the chocolate sweet potato vine, but it has a naturally flowing appearance.
There is no doubt that I interfere with the natural order of things in my garden. Sometimes I water too much-I never err on the side of watering too little. Every nursery person I know will say that more plants are lost to overwatering than anything else. I worry my plants. I plan as if planning were the crowning achievement of a gardener. I move things around. I desert some plants, and plant loads of other plants. I like getting my own way. This spring planting I photographed in August-a community had been created without me. So I chose to do nothing about it, except enjoy it.
When I saw this CC plantings last September, I put my elaborate and intense program on pause. The natural order of things made for a planting that was exquisite. Exquisitely natural and unassuming. Enchanting-of course. There are but a few bits of heliotrope still representing-but is that not enough? Her white non stop begonias wre breathtaking.
I would interpret the CC rule thusly. Scheme, draw, plant-and then step back. Let nature react to your plan. Give nature plenty of time. What you see in the end should inform your ideas about gardening. Lots of plants resent too much touching. Too much supervision. Too much fussing can drain the life out of a garden, or a planting. This pot I have at home I have not touched, except to water. And I water it as little as possible.
This petunia and licorice pot has been sparingly watered, and shows no signs of any awkward trimming. It is a prime example of benign neglect. And a recognition that most plant have an incredibly powerful will to live, if you let them.
That is not to say I won’t intervene with noxious weeds, or dry soil, or any plant clearly asking for help. But making a huge issue of a stray this or that can put a damper on your garden party.
What a difficult gardening season this has been-from the magnolia flowers frosting off, to the poor early show on the roses, to the heat and drought. And now more heat, starting up again. My 3D osteospermums have been sulking in the heat. But for sure my containers have some robustly growing osteo bushes that will start to bloom again when our temperatures cool down. The CC rule-in some cases it is the only approach that makes any gardening sense.