For the past three years I have subscribed to “The English Garden.” Each and every issue is packed with dazzling photos of impeccably designed and maintained gardens. For three years I have read each and every word, hoping to absorb some of this perfection. In the most recent edition I counted on two pages of text 16 varieties of plants that I have never heard of. This happens page after page. Every now and then there will be something familiar and I hang on it like a Personal Flotation Device.
Readers, for an entire day I experienced a personal crisis of confidence. I went down the whole list of what I don’t know about gardening. If you have followed this column you will notice that I often say there is no design involved here, that I plant willy nilly, that every year the perennial beds look different, that I am forever moving plants around, that I don’t really know what I’m doing. This is all reinforced by reading “The English Garden.”
Last evening the light was magnificent. John and I had just returned from the matinee showing of “Downton Abbey” (of course) and there were three cow moose across the street, one of who was calling to an unseen bull who was answering her call. As we moseyed back to the house every tree, every leaf, every single everything was glowing. We walked through the garden and were dazzled. It was gorgeous.
And every afternoon, viewed from the east living room window, the Shubert chokecherry glows and sparkles, the color complimenting the interior walls and the cranberry glass berry bowls that are under the pots of African violets. It all makes my heart sing. Somewhere in this scheme there must be some planning. I just don’t know where it comes from.
Then here comes Judy Flora recently back from the Lower 48 where she enjoys scouring used bookstores. She usually brings me a gardening book. This year she found Rosemary Verey’s “Making of a Garden,” and there they were — so many of the plants that I’m familiar with, old friends, many of them in this little garden. Page after page did wonders to soothe my damaged confidence.
How often have you read in this space that your garden is for you. You are not competing with anyone or thing. You are gardening for yourself, perhaps your family, your dog, your life. Take pleasure in it each and every day, notice the light, accept what you have, ignore what you don’t.
There used to be three Amur maples here, but they were so winter damaged each and every spring that I would need to cut out so much, leaving them with unfortunate shapes that I couldn’t redeem. I finally cut them down. Oh, how I miss them. With our change in climate I’m noticing Amur maples that are so gorgeous this fall. These are the ones that a maniac with a pruner (that would be me) never paid the least attention to. There is an excellent example of one of these on Mountain View Drive. There it is, probably for the last 10 or 15 years, just growing along, no one paying the least bit of attention to it, and this fall it is fabulous. Notice the Amur maples on Pioneer Avenue. Lovely. There should be more of them. They are a pretty shrub all season long, the leaves are the classic maple shape and turn brilliant red in the fall, to be appreciated no matter how briefly. I would like to give these lovelies another try but, really, I have run out of room.
And what about the mountain ash trees all over town? I love the way they take turns changing color in the fall. The ones on my street are all changing at different rates so the pleasure lasts longer. Let’s hope the Bohemian waxwings come this winter and eat the berries.
Think about this when you plant trees and shrubs. There is year-round interest to be had. You can’t go wrong planting one next to the other. Just give them all enough space. That would be your only mistake — crowding, something I have going on here. Learn from my mistake and give yours the luxury of enough room.
Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener and has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.