How Have You Changed as a Gardener over the Years?

cindysunshine(5b)May 29, 2010

Are you just getting started? On the upswing in total garden passion? So over it now - older and wiser?

I always enjoyed it - we had a couple smaller homes and I had some flower gardens, one had a little rock garden, I had a real perennial bed at the 2nd one - I started to enjoy daylilies and I had a lot of columbine there.

Then we built the big house in the country with 150 acres of property - it took us 5 years to really get it under control. I built wide borders all around it backed with shrubs and trellises on the house. I remember when my mom first came over to see the new gardens she was utterly astounded how wide they were. I planted. And planted. And planted. Added more beds, focused on color, got good at seed starting - went thru years where I had dozens and dozens of flats of my seedlings - I really enjoyed learning about the whole art of seed starting and got pretty good at it.

I played with a lot of clematis, roses, peonies, daylilies, true lilies - asiatics, trumpets, orientals, the various hybrids.

Then I really got into the vegetable garden - I had a couple years that it was truly gorgeous with tepee trellises, sunflowers in strategic places, all mulched and beautifully "kept" - I grew and experimented with dozens of heirloom tomatoes, herbs, various lettuce. We planted an orchard with 25 trees, had raspberries, black raspberries, rhubarb, grapes, strawberries. We put in an acre pond, edged it with trees, put in a bunch of ornamental grasses which I never liked in the borders but love around the pond.

And then I took a job transfer and worked back and forth between two places for nearly 7 years. I simply had to let the gardens here go - I was exhausting myself and then I'd leave and come back and they all needed it again. I had a little garden space at the condo I had in my working location - I got tremendous joy out of small but fabulous - it was beautiful there!

So now I'm home and trying to find what makes sense now - first off just getting everything back under control - trying to figure out how to cut back (but honestly that isn't easy unless you really remove beds). I remind myself something that I heard on a gardening show - plant more of what you already have that is beautiful - repetition is lovely in the garden.

We still have tomatoes, peppers, basil, sweet corn, onions, parsley in the vegie garden and this year I put in eggplant, zucchini, and bush beans. It is WAY too big but I am arguing with my husband about making it smaller.

I have 10 containers on my deck instead of 40.

So I am in the mellowing out stage for sure - getting ready to retire in a year or two and I will have more time, but I want it to be sheer pleasure.

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When we bought our house 5 years ago we had never gardened. I only wanted to put a small flower bed in our small front yard and then fill the entire backyard with vegetables. What's the point in flowers?

I quickly fell in love with flower and eventually converted the entire front garden into a cottage style garden.

Now we are both so enamored with gardening that we are selling our house and moving across the country (from zone 3 to zone 6) to a property with 4 acres so that we can expand the flowers and food gardening as well as get into chickens, pigs, goats and rabbits!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 7:36PM
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How wonderful for you! Chickens are actually on my 2011 planner - I am going to raise them for a few years and see how I like it.

But it really is a LOT of work - I mean a lot of work. I am trying to figure out some rational point where it's pleasure and not quite so much work.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 12:32AM
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Jen, I told my husband what you wrote (my gardening has him hooked now), and he said, "Good for them!" :)

I've always had a small flower bed,usually with the standard Periwinkles.

When we built the large one's last summer and the one along the fence....and the plot of wildflowers, I'll put anything in the ground that fancies me. Now I can experiment and I really enjoy that.

It's work though, and I'm finished for the summer. My poor body needs rest!

Because of you all giving me so much advice along with your patience, now I feel secure in my gardening.

Only downside is I'm obsessed about deadheading every morning! I feel if I don't my plants won't bloom tomorrow. lol

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 6:39AM
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I've been at it for about 15 years at this house and I still love it, but I'm trying to "work smarter, not harder". As much as possible, I try to get drought tolerant plants and plants that require a minimum amount of maintanance. Things that require alot of pinching or regular deadheading I either avoid or use sparingly.

Totally Confused

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 7:39AM
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I was a typical southern gardener until 5 years ago. I grew daffodils, azaleas, roses, hydrangeas, hostas, daylilies, irises, rhododendron, viburnum, dogwoods, redbuds and such... and a lot of woodland natives.

Building here, I had to relearn everything that I knew about gardening due to deer, drought, Japanese beetles, rabbits and FULL SUN-- I mean FULL SUN! Now I grow full sun, xeric plants and tough plants -- nepeta, agastache, salvia, buddleia, coreopsis, spirea, crepe myrtle, lavender, rosemary, alliums, etc.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 10:20AM
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memo(Zone 4B Nebraska)

As a gardener, I have learned a lot, especially since the internet became available to me. I no longer have to garden by trial and error. Knowledge is power when it comes to gardening.

Over the years I've always had some form of flower gardens or vegetable gardens but working long hours, raising all of my kids, moving around a lot, divorce, illness and now lack of funds due to disability has always limited what I can get done. It's prety frustrating for me because while my heart's still in it, my body isn't. I want large gorgeous gardens more than ever before and yet I feel like I'm chasing a rainbow. I've decided that, for me, a small veggie plot and a small flower garden are probably the best I can do so I'm going to teach myself to be happy with what I have garden wise and just try to maintain what I have.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 5:31PM
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Since my husband retired from active farming and rented out the cropland he has spent a lot more time gardening. We have expanded several beds and created new ones. I know that it is soon going to be more than either one of us by ourselves could handle, but while we are still able we are really enjoying the gardens we are creating. We have put up bird feeders and take the time to watch the birds. We have hummingbirds and I think those are his favorites. I get to spend more time with the flowers and watching the birds because he takes care of so many of the chores that I had to do when he worked so hard getting the crops out and harvested.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 6:06PM
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kiskin (5/6 in EU)(5/6 in EU)

Living with my parents in a city center apartment, I used to be a convinced city-girl. When my mother started to look for a nice plot for a summer house I did not understand nor even approve of it...

My own first apartment had a large roof terrace, it was there that I first discovered balcony-gardening in my 20ies. I knew nothing about plants and it makes me giggle to think back at my first gardening experiments - I chose all the wrong plants for containers. But through trial and error I learned, after a while I was able to plant nice container combinations, I mostly dabbled with annuals and only few perennials. After 6 years of balcony gardening I decided I needed a house with a garden.

So now it is my 4th summer of gardening in ground in my tiny suburbian garden. The lush and flowering cottage garden look has always appealed to me. My interests have shifted towards perennials now, incl. roses, but I still do quite a lot of colourful annual containers and scatter them around the garden.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 9:55AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Money. Money has changed how I garden.

I used to grow everything from seeds and cuttings; my parents used to give me nice plants for Christmas and birthdays. I was young and strong and did not mind digging 80 foot long trenches or cutting down dead trees with a hand-saw. I never thought I would stoop to hiring a tree-trimmer, so I had no problems planting orphan trees whenever one was offered. Whenever someone would say "gee, that's going to be a lot of work to maintain" I would scoff. I had plenty of energy to contain bamboo, ivy, horsetails, mint... anything that was free and would fill in the half acre of weeds and dirt.

Now I can buy what I want, and I can plant and water the entire yard instead of just one tiny area. I now have shrubs and perennials as well as annuals and pass-along irises. I can no longer shimmy up a 40 foot tall California Pepper tree to shape it, but I can afford to hire tree trimmers. However, I can't keep up with the ivy, the mint, the horsetails, the bamboo... and I would need a trust fund to pay someone else to do it!


    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 4:52PM
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rosie(Deep South, USA 7A/B)

Your home sounds lovely, Cindysunshine. Mine's a lot smaller and newer, and I'm still trying to bring significant areas under control. Happily, I can finally see that my own change as a gardener is working for me. My tastes are becoming a lot greener (the COLOR green) and simpler over time so that more and more I'm thinking in terms of creating large spaces and views of easy maintenance, small treasure gardens I can walk into and fuss over, walks that can be briefly special in their season then relax into green transitions, only those favorite veggies and salad greens that aren't readily available at the market, and so on. Although I've spent years collecting plants for extravagant, highly detailed gardens (still at it :), the gardens I increasingly find most beautiful and most pleasing, particularly here in the country, are older ones formed from attrition of plants and gardening energy, and years of nature having its say, into lovely serene scenes of nature gently controlled.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 5:22PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

I confess to being in awe of anyone who has more than 1/4 acre in which to garden. We live in the city, and our urban lot of 5600 sq. ft. total (around 1/6 acre?) has a small cottage and hardscape which surrounds around 2100 sq. ft. contained by 15+ cottage garden beds. There is no lawn, and I take care of it by myself except for a few 'heavy lifting' chores I get a pro to come out and do for me, usually about twice a year. It's all I can take care of, and although I'd like "a little bit more" I always remind myself I wouldn't be able to take care of a bigger garden.

My DH retired last year and we are doing some traveling. Gardening is still something I enjoy doing, but it isn't #1 on my priority list any longer.

We lived in this house for a dozen years before having enough $$ to do the landscaping, so my main concerns were always water thriftiness, charm (the cottage lacking any), and year-round color, since we are as likely to be outside in March or January as we are in August, this being coastal Northern CA.

For instant impact - I'm impatient - container plants were used. I still prefer them. An evergreen garden makes it hard for seeds or tiny plants to do well; they struggle to get enough light and water to compete.

The biggest change was that I learned to be ruthless. If it doesn't grow, it's out. If it limps on, never quite performing to its potential, it's getting tossed in the greens bin to be commercially composted. If it grows up but just isn't right for the spot, whether because it's the wrong shape or color or just got too darn big - it's dug out and either moved (if I can find a place for it) or cut up for the composting.

When I look over my extensive photographic record of my 7 years of gardening, I'm always shocked by how different the plantings are, over successive years. I did a lot of 'plant dominos' when I'd ignorantly put plants in the wrong site, and sometimes I still do, sigh!

But that's another change - now I try really, really hard not to put a great plant in the wrong place. Mostly because I've run out of room to easily rework my bed designs, LOL.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 5:25PM
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DH likes to say we can only travel in the fall and winter because of my flowers. It is somewhat true since I like to see everything bloom.

I am obsessed with gardening now. I have always gardened, but since I injured my knee and had to be confined for a while, I have been focused on gardening. And my garden has grown and grown in that time.

DH used to complain when I bought plants, and he likes to say that I used to plant them and forget them. That is no longer true, and he no longer complains at all when I buy plants.

I maintain my beds, and weed and feed now. that wasn't the case before.

I think the main difference in my gardening is that I truly enjoy all aspects of gardening now...even the weeding.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 9:53PM
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I LOVE this interesting to read about each and every one of yours gardening "lives" and the changes it has seen..kinda like a cats 9 lives.. :) This post is at a very appropriate time for me...I have been gardening for 32 years to some degree or another. I am a farm girl tho I now live in "town" a tiny little midwestern barely paved street town :). My first gardening years were much like many of yours. Renee, I giggled outloud at your post. My first gardens were a collection of anything given to me as I was raising a family and had little money for something as frivolous as flowers even tho I adored them. My grandmothers and my mom and mother in law gave me extras..some lived..some I learned by :). In those years my freebies were mostly iris, money plant, old fashioned roses and peony. As the years moved on, I did a bit of sown..and snapdragons became a passion, along with marigolds and zinnias. A few more years passed and the petunia and then dalhias became my passion. I really thought I was A GARDENER THEN :) Every year that passed I would find a new passion..some new "trend" of the year for me...I was really focused on the wow factor of annuals for quite a few years....then about 7 or 8 years ago I decided annuals were beautiful but so soo expensive. I really loved the punch of annuals while I was building the less showy but longer lasting punch of other things in my everywhere I had a blah spot..I added a got soooo expensive...beautiful..but expensive..I began reducing those containers a bit..the watering got to be a full time job. Luckily I work in a school system and that allows me much time to garden during the warm months of the passion began spreading to those around me. I "rubbed off" on many of the girls I worked with by sharing with them :) This year, before the season here began, I found out my daughters pregnancy was once again this time to be troubled...and most likely would head down the bedrest trail again..this time tho, she has a very active three year old and lives two hours from summer will most likely be spent traveling and helping assure we see a healthy full term bye bye most of those containers...I can't water them and keep them when I am two hours away for a week or two at a time. I began dumping and storing...It is ACTUALLY a other stuff looks so much better without the "stuff" cluttering the beds... What was I thinking all those years...I added instead more knockouts..(sorry rose lovers) and hydrangeas and lily...I also used the "someday" I wont be able to do all of this mindset and thought hydrangeas and roses and lily are much punch with nominal I am a long way away from those earlier years..and even a longer way from five years ago. I have less, but I have more beauty now and far more texture and layering. I credit this forum and a few good gardening magazines with most of that success.. :) Thank you Garden Web for changing my style.

My new motto..beautiful gardens are ONLY beautiful if you can keep them up...afford them, and enjoy let no one else make you feel you need more..or should have what suits you, and change when change is needed :)

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 10:24PM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

I can relate to a lot of these comments. I've been really into gardening for more than 20 years.

Be careful what you wish for - you might get it! I wanted a huge property with woods and a pond and lots of sun and I got it. Now I spend all my time working outside. Like you, I'm now at the point where it really is too much work. I'm trying to find ways to cut back the hours.

I no longer do any annual flowers - no impatiens, no petunias, etc. Too much effort and money when I have a surplus of perennials.

I no longer do containers. They have to be hauled out, planted, watered CONSTANTLY, then hauled back in when summer is over. I may have just a couple, but not like I used to.

I no longer keep everything. If that iris just isn't pretty enough for me, I rip it out. I have tons of gorgeous iris, so why keep the plain or strange colored ones. If those plants get aphids EVERY year they can't stay. If those buds freeze 3 years out of 4 with no blooms, then they aren't suited for this area. This is rather new, and I'm getting better. It's hard to get rid of plants, but I've never missed them once they're gone.

Apart from that, I think my tastes are now more mature. I actually appreciate plants for their foliage, not just blooms. I like "supporting players" like hardy geranium and sedums, not just the divas like clematis and iris. I let the self seeders do their magic and come up in random places. I let things merge and meld more.

I also pick more bouquets. Sure they look great in the garden. But on my kitchen table everyone enjoys them.

I still have too much to do, my hope is that as my garden matures, I will have less to do because things are finally in the "right place". We'll see . . . .

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 7:07AM
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Yes I agree completely especially with the last few posts. I, too, just yanked out things that don't work - and this spring when a big patch of these very common pale lilac iris bloomed in this position of honor next to the walk and flopped AGAIN I got out the fork and removed the entire plant and into the compost heap it went - a whole garden cart full of boring floppy iris. I put a low growing midnight wine weigela in its place and a few starts of a stunning dark purple iris. Better.

Roses are hard for me here - but I do love them. I am right now tending what I have and trying to decide if they are worth it - to get them gorgeous they need regular fertilizing and bug control. I used to have the old fashioned rugosa 'Hansa' next to my double mock orange - they peak bloomed together and the fragrance knocked your socks off. Hansa somehow died out during my years of absense but I may need him back.

I also am finding I can appreciate an open place with mulch and that annuals that self sow or just pop up from seed I toss into the gardens work - the self sowers come up on the their own and bloom early and the direct sows are later. All those flats awaiting plunking used to be so stressful to me.

But overall it is still too much - and having that tiny condo garden taught me a lot about the sheer joy in simplicity.

I remember when I was on my uphill garden passion curve and older gardeners would talk like this and I totally ignored them. But now I'm there and here I am. :) I still have mammoth gardens - but I wish they were smaller.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 8:16AM
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I like this thread, too.

Gottagarden - I got tired of tending and spending on annual containers, too. This year, I'm switching over to perennials, mostly xeric, in the containers. Not lush looking, but permanent!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 10:15AM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

I remember when I was on my uphill garden passion curve and older gardeners would talk like this and I totally ignored them. But now I'm there and here I am. :)

Haha - I remember them saying that too :-)

I remember them waxing rhapsodic about foliage and I just didn't get it. Now I do.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 11:32AM
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Older and wiser I suppose after over 3 decades of gardening. However still enjoying this hobby. How's that for continous interest?

About 19 years ago, I migrated to Canada and for the first time I encountered flowers from here. I've gardened in the tropics before and so this new form of gardening to me was super exciting. I was dazzled with all the new blooms, the variety of plants -- and the availability of these plants. I absorbed all I could from all the information I could find. It was fun... I was always learning something new on TV. How to put up a knot garden, how to do composting, how to set up a border,how to make great soil, etc.. These shows clarified for me what I knew from hands-on experience and yet not quite understanding the process. So I was really glad for those early shows that taught me much about gardening.

A couple of decades later,here I am still enjoying my gardening - but now all the more wiser. I only wish I could recapture that spark that started it all. It was pure energy, curiousity, daring,inspiration and bliss. I still get excited with new plant arrangements but it's just a different form of excitement.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 1:48PM
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I've enjoyed reading this thread and feel much the same as others who are perhaps also over 65. While I still enjoy gardening and love my garden it's a lot of work and DH and I are joking more about that condo with a few plants on the balcony (especially when our backs ache after a long gardening day).

I am now planning for more and larger foliage plants so they take more space and I won't have to have quite so many flowering perennials or annuals. Every spring there is a lot of weeding on this acreage where seeds blow in constantly from uncultivated grazing areas.

I've gardened in containers (dozens) on decks, indoors (over 60 indoor plants), on city lots large and small, and on several country acreages over the years. Loved having chickens and other farm animals but we are now retired and like to travel on a whim. My garden has to take a back-seat and sometimes suffers if there is no rain when we are away. Can't be helped, I'm not hiring a gardener or farm-sitter as well as a house-sitter. I just water well, mulch heavily, and let nature take over.

I think there is a time for everything and we're making the choices that work best for us. I love looking at other people's gardens both online and IRL. In the past I relied on gardening books and magazines, now I usually look online for info and inspiration.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 1:59PM
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a2zmom(6a - nj)

I grew up in NYC in an aaprtment. One of my sisters grew African violets, but that was as close to gardening as I got.

Twenty years ago we bought out first tiny house in NJ and I started a small bed in the front. My husband actually did most of the gardening, growing a variety of veggies in the back of our tiny yard.

Ten years ago we bought our dream house in Morris county, New Jersey, a half acre plot. I decided a wanted a garden in the tiny 4' by 6' front bed which had been occupied by a peony and some annuals. I'm a computer programmer by trade and a researcher by nature. I bought the Well Tended Perennial Garden and followed the instructions on how to amend your soil. The soil was medium clay with lots of rocks and tilling it was pretty back breaking, but I did it.

I followed a planting plan I had modified that I got from a book. Miraculously I didn't plant anything overly aggressive and everything grew like gang busters.

Now it's ten years later. I have two more beds - my butterfly garden and my anything goes bed. I am in the midst of my most ambitious garden project ever - a 30' foot long bed that is being created lasagna garden style.

Two days ago I moved a plant three inches over.

I've killed lots of plants, gotten things to overwinter I didn't think I could, love it when an unexpected seedling shows up and have given plenty of unsolicited advice to people who are always grateful for it at my local nursery.

Somehow I turned into a gardener and I love every minute of it.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 10:47PM
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