Sunday Opinion: Cheap Tricks

Mow the grass to perfection.  This will make your landscape look well cared for, even if the garden has gotten away from you, and fungus is running rampant in everything from the maples to the sweet woodriff.  

The sweet woodriff might need a little more room-cut the bed 6 inches bigger.  If it has spread into a spot where it is not so happy, move the edge back.  Mind your edges in general.  Compositions, beds, properties, views, walkways-they all have edges.  The effort you put to good edges, as in deep verges, edger strip, brick edges, stone walls-all of this will result in less maintenance, and a better look that costs nothing more than your attention and your timely intervention.

Maintenance is key to a beautiful garden, so do not buy plants on impulse.  Read the literature, visit any trial garden within driving distance, decide if a plant meets your aesthetic or practical criteria for inclusion in your garden-before you plant.  If it does not, there will lots of extra maintenance trying to get it to deliver, or work visually.  I do not mind hard work.  What I mind is hard work to no good end.  Nine times out of ten, I own my own troubles. I try to think before I buy. 

Buy plants on impulse. Your impulse comes from you and you alone; your unique point of view is what fuels the success of your garden efforts.  Having something the way you want it is fun. Make everything you love work together, as in move things around until they are in just the right spot.  You are after all the President and CEO of your garden.  Exercise your executive power, and then your executive shovel.

Shovel out those ideas you believe to be true without having looked at them with a cool eye. Take photographs of everything you do, and look at the pictures. Your relationship to your garden is emotionally charged.  Step back-get that dispassionate lens looking at what you have trouble seeing clearly.  Cell phone cameras-fine.  You need to see the big picture-not the details.

The details could not be more important. Stake those things you know will go over. Water when you need to, even when you don’t feel like it. Deadhead, divide, weed, grow from seed. Be good natured about the fact that the work will never be finished. The difference between a successful garden project and a so so garden project has everything to do with an energy that starts out big, stays big, and finishes bigger.

 Big, broadly conceived moves will draw, engage, and delight the eye.  Express your design clearly. Should you need to write an explanatory outline of your intent and post it at the entrance to the garden-go back to square one. Figure out how to make that garden look like what you intend.  Arrange plants and spaces coherently.  What do you have going on in the air space?  What is going on underground?  Are your social surfaces level? 

Level headed-there are those times when it is a good idea.  I pay my bills, pass by the potato chips in the grocery, and get a yearly checkup.  There are times when this mind set applies to overseeing the garden.  If you plant a tree, will you hand water it until it has rooted in?  If you add a perennial bed, will you mulch weed and water until it fills in?  Plant only what you will look after faithfully.  Make a plan to get where you want to be, one step at a time.  Plan.

Plan and re-revise your plans every season.  A great landscape and garden takes many years. The years that represent hat time is equal to the time it takes you to mature as a gardener.  Take the time.

Time is not on your side.  Make a move-now.  Plant a tree or 3. Redo.  Hire a professional.  It is ok to ask how hiring someone could possibly be a cheap trick. If you buy and plant and don’t get a garden you love, a good professional could save you lots of time and money.  Expose yourself to places that can inspire you.  Beautiful gardens both public and private, books, a garden club or association, a local garden center may have something that enchants you.

What enchants you?  This is the cheapest trick of all, sorting out what seriously interests you from what mildly amuses you.  Take the time to understand what matters to you about the garden.  This might be a complicated topic, but the more you think about what you love and need from your landscape is like is two aspirin and a beer for your design headache.  Any knowledge is a good thing, and it can be had for nothing more than your effort to obtain it.  An inspired landscape and garden of your own will energize and enchant you. 

I like to talk to people who visit my shop. I am in an out of the way location, so I know people come for a reason. They will tell me why the came, or what they are looking for, should I ask.  So many tell me they come here to be inspired, to get ideas, to feel better, to add or change something in their garden. They happily complain that there are too many beautiful choices. They may tell me that something they see makes them change their mind about what they thought they wanted. I like hearing this.  I intend that anyone who comes here gets visual access to my ideas about gardening, beautiful ornament, and design. The store display gardens, how we choose and arrange what we buy, our willingness to talk things over, coach and care-how we put it all together, makes for an experience.  Take advantage of anything or anyone out there that strikes a chord.  

  People do hire me to design and install landscapes and gardens for them-thanks heavens they do.  People who shop at Detroit Garden Works have kept me in business for going on 15 years; I so appreciate this. It is my idea to keep working, keep evolving.  Lots of people have a hand in this-thank you all very much.   We are in the thick of redoing the shop for the fall, and the upcoming winter season. We have a few tricks up our sleeves. Given what lies ahead for gardens and gardeners alike, we are running a special on enchantment this fall-you’ll see.

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