My garden is not your garden

inkognitoNovember 23, 2005

The young guy at the garden centre was briefly amused when I asked him what "centre" means.

"Well, that is an unusual question," he said.

"And what is the usual question?" I asked.

"At college we had to write an essay on what a garden is but, and, well I guess a garden centre is in the middle of that." he said, which made no sense to me without knowing what he thought a garden was, so I asked him.

Fortunately for him there was a more pressing question from another customer regarding matching colours of petunias and then he pretended not to see me.

So once I got over the fact that his "garden" was probably nothing like my "garden" this is what I asked myself "Could I come up with a definition of "garden" that would satisfy my colleagues at NASA or my best friends mates at the FBI?" I realised my problem and then I thought of you. Less than 400 words is it?

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Gardening can be all things to all people. It can be relaxation for those who have stressful jobs or a long commute in heavy traffic. I can be a form of exercise for those with sedentary lifestyles. It can be inspirational to those with an artistic vent. Many people want close to the same thing in their gardens: they want organization, color , ornamental plants and something that everyone else does not have. They want to ply Mother Nature with liquid fertilizer until they can subjugate her and bend her to their will, forcing her to un-natural acts like . A few want to raise some edible crops or fruit.
Some just want to keep up with the Jonses and have an exceptional lawn. Then , lastly, there are those few that want nothing at all to do with a lawn or garden, those are the lost souls that need our pity.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2005 at 5:31PM
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Ink, Evidently I did such an exceptional job answering your query of defining a garden that there is nothing left to be said. Congratulations are in order.
But wait! Poppa is out there somewhere and I just know he can expound on this theme and baffle us with his brilliance though I may not fully understand his meaning - a shortcoming of mine. Generally Poppa says something that makes me burst out laughing and then he says things that are over my head but they sound good. (that ought to lure him into the fray).

    Bookmark   November 25, 2005 at 6:28PM
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'Garden' ( a work that is definitely a fiction just in case my paranoia is justified).
Bob worked for the CIA, he thought we didn't know but Bob was not a very good liar, he invited us to a barbecue on Bastille Day. I was married to a French woman and was sure that Danielle would understand the significance, I asked her and she said "quoi?" Anyway, we went, it was on a Sunday after all in the afternoon, or afterlawn as my wife says, I cut the grass on Sunday mornings. Bobsbarbecue that looked like a time machine or a brain scanner was set up on the stoop it was spotless, and stainless, steel. that is, I made the mistake of calling the stoop a 'patio' which is a 'foreign' word apparently and so is ÃloggiaÃ, one more strike and I could be out. He was cooking some stuff that could not be said to favour any culture or diet above another, he flipped a Ãburgerà and my stomach flipped too. Bob's wife, Babs, asked if I wanted a tour of the garden. "Oui" I said and then regretted it. Bastille is the name of the New Orleans college football team Bob once played for she told me
On a table just off the patio were some wonderful bonsai, their submission was breathtaking, other than that there was no vegetation in the garden at all. We walked around the pool on astroturf and the crystal clear turquoise water bubbled through another contraption that resembled something, but I was not sure what. BabÃs explained that Bob had found a leaf in the pool once and had this filter installed the very next day, I thought of the bonsai and could only imagine the size of the offending leaf. The tour of the garden didnÃt take long, there was only the stoop with its miniature trees and the pool surrounded by astroturf, nothing hidden, no mystery just that. BabÃs bent down to pick up some real grass that must have come from me looked me straight in the eyes and said ÃSo, what do you think of the garden?Ã

    Bookmark   November 26, 2005 at 9:50AM
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Well there it is again the sound of the hollow bell. I was called a jerk on another branch of the Garden Web. I am a jerk apparantly for trying to inject some life into this forum I am a jerk for having a point of view I am a jerk because I am not a real writer.
So, over to you.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 6:39PM
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Be patient, we're lurking and thinking.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 10:40PM
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veronicastrum(z5 IL)

Easy, INK, we Yanks are still digesting our turkey and haven't moved off the couch much in the last week. Well, except to go trample our fellow human beans at the local Wally World last Friday . You know they call that day Black Friday because of all the shopping-related deaths that occur on that day.

And of course this is Cyber Monday week, an on-line shopping day so big it takes five days and its own cliche to accomplish. Everyone is over at and no one is posting at poor old GW because nothing is for sale over here.
(Dancing cheerios don't count.)

Okay, now that I've found the post I will contemplate a more serious answer. You've raised a worthy topic and we should take the time to respond!


    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 2:48PM
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I am working on the third paragraph.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 5:10PM
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poppa(z5 MA)

Eddie almost had me hauled out of the water and on his boat, but i managed to slip off his hook and fall back into the depths of lethargy.


    Bookmark   December 2, 2005 at 7:48AM
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veronicastrum(z5 IL)

My garden is not your garden, and most of you probably would be very happy about that.

My garden is intensely personal. I make no bones about the fact that its what I want it to be, not what someone else designed nor copied from the pages of the popular magazines.

I started with my own rules and broke them whenever I felt like it. One of the first rules was that I would not tolerate evergreens in my garden, because they were not indigenous to my area before it had been farmed. Then my ten year old son went with me to a trade show, and late in the afternoon proudly announced that he had traded some of my plants for a golden arbor vitae in another booth. He had even named the shrub Bobbie. Whats a mother to do besides hand over the promised plants, find a spot for the arb and smile inside because you know youve got him hooked on gardening?

I plant pleasing combinations, but I let others just happen as I have a high tolerance for seedlings. I dont think I could have planted a columbine to nestle so perfectly against the boulder as the chance seedling has come to be. But if a plant gets out of hand with its seeding about, I can be ruthless about paring back.

There are plants in my garden that have very special stories attached to them. The celadine poppy came from a transgendered landscaper. I dont know why she reached out to me on her journey from he to she, but it was an experience that opened my eyes and brought me a completely different level of understanding, and I recall that every time I see that plant. The Diablo ninebark was purchased at Arrowhead Alpines, which I got to visit with about a dozen or so friends that I met right here on Garden Web. Marie was the "enabler" in that purchase. And the pasque flowers next to the step I grew from seed on my own, and Im quite proud of that accomplishment, thank you.

My next challenge is the woodland area at the edge of the yard. Within a tangle of Multiflora rose and burdock, I sensed a circular opening. We mowed the brush and an almost perfect circle appeared, ringed by bur oaks and a few cherries. I walked into the opening late Monday as a light snow was falling, and decided I liked the feeling of the space. The planting will start in the spring.

My garden is not your garden, but it is mine and it gives me great joys.


    Bookmark   December 2, 2005 at 2:01PM
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A garden by definition in the North American continent is somewhere where you have planted something and that generally does not include grass.

A garden by definition in Great Britain is anything outside the house but inside the property boundary. That space at the front is the 'Front Garden' the space at the back is the 'Back Garden'. Neither needs to have anything, but most do have lawn and flower bed.

A garden on a roof may just have pots, yet still be termed a 'Rooftop Garden'.

So what is a garden depends first on who you are talking to. Descriptions of the garden is sometimes done beautifully by realtors who may of may not appreciate your efforts. So here are some 'realtorese' terms for our favorite spot outside the back door:

The garden on your property may be termed:

An ' English Garden' a catch all for lots of flowers and not much order;

A 'Gardeners' Garden' which can be interpreted as a highly manicured and high maintenance headache;

A 'Casual garden' - ill kept lawn and jungle gym remnants all over;

'Professionally landscaped': contains weird shrubs and lots of mushroom lights;

'Spacious backyard' - nothing growing;

'Low maintenance garden' looks like a prairie, or maybe concrete with a few pots;

'Natural landscape' - unimproved field of grass;

Garden for the enthusiast: one down from natural a mud patch;

I am sure you can all come up with more professional descriptions.

Sorry this took a while to get to INK but this week was busy!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2005 at 9:07AM
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Nell Jean

My garden is not your garden. Just now the center of attention in 1/4 acre of my garden is a 600 pound bull yearling who still cries for his Mooma and wants to love me to a literal death when I try to cajole him with sweet feed and and a bucket full of carefully clipped green grass from the other side of the garden where there are 12 acres of lush green grain. In between grows a huge Camellia sasanqua raining white petals on the driveway.

Is it a garden? It's MY garden. I wish it had a golden arborvitae like V's.


    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 1:55PM
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The teenage years were a trying time for my family. The three oldest were just 15 months apart and all those hormones hit my Catholic parents like a ton of bricks. Vietnam briefly made 18 year olds legal adults. A strong work ethic and a lower middle class life had the first three hatchlings leaving the nest for their first solo flights at seventeen.

The chronology of that time gets foggy in my mind. I have been accused by my mom of having a faulty memory and my best friend of 30 years would concur. I prefer to see it as a different form of memory retention and markers. Dont ask me to remember a particular day or a particular conversation. I remember a stretch of time, a place where I lived, the garden I had there.

The Student Ghetto was a section of town on the north side of the University of Florida campus. It was several streets of ramshackle wooden buildings, apartments made from old boarding houses for a different social ethos in the Universities younger days. This is the part that is foggy. Some how I ended up living very briefly in the ground floor of one of these decrepit old buildings and I dont think I was in college at the time.

The place was sad, just barely white with long faded paint and a shaped like a big rectangular barn with stairs up one side wall to the second floor. The yard was a dirt parking lot strewn with bits of trash and edged with uncut grass and weed trees.

Florida gets real hot and swamp muggy in the summer and I was lucky that this downstairs back unit had some nice shady entry steps to sit outside on when it got to hot to be inside. To the left of the steps was this patch of neglected earth and it called out to me. So I cleaned up the trash, pulled up the weeds and planted myself a small flower bed. I planted the big leafed Elephant Ears and a few other things. Not much really, just enough to look at while I sat sweating in teen angst on the cool back porch.

A friend came by to visit one day and saw my little garden. Looking at the dump I lived in they couldnt help but ask why I would go to the trouble of planting a garden in this horrible place that I would not be staying in long. Without thinking I just said "I want this place to be better when I leave".

I have had many gardens in my life now. Each one unique and many not expected from a tenant. My mysterious generous behavior that most people did not understand was that I was not tending the house. I was tending the earth, making it better than how I found it and it was tending me back in return.


    Bookmark   December 16, 2005 at 3:18AM
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My garden is not your garden, and for that, you should be grateful. Any garden, yours or mine, begins not with the plants, but with the soil which dictates what plants will thrive, and what plants will eventually be pulled up and thrown away. My soil is sand. Not sandy, mind you, but deep, granular sand. Broken bits of pine straw from years of mulching infiltrate this sand several inches deep, along with leaf litter from the many overhanging oak trees. The microorganisms in the ground have been at work in my garden far longer than I have, and as a result of their endless task of digesting plant and animal residues, the sand has, in some places, where moisture from a coveted irrigation system aids their work, actually attained an appearance of soil. I am not fooled. Neither are the worms, which should abound in a proper garden, but forsake my ground for the amended beds next door.
My garden is shady. I value the oaks more than the flowers that would replace them, and so I make do with foliage plants that are happy with the filtered light. A single clump of Evergreen Giant liriope, not a border or a mass, but a single clump, flourishes here. A vivid magenta cordyline called Red Sister lives in a blue ceramic pot smack dab in the middle of that shady bed, lending a surprise of color amidst the greenery. Seasonal color comes from the agapanthus, which I prize more for its elegant strap leaves than for its funny blue flowers, and more seasonal color comes from the beautiful firespike. The brilliant red flowers of the firespike are complimented by its large, glossy green leaves, and brighten a shade corner magnificently during the cool days of fall and winter. My garden is home to sago and coontie, both from the ancient family of cycads. House plants have settled into the garden as well, airplane plants and peace lilies and the occasional bromeliad, planted there in an effort to save them from my in-door negligence.
My garden, whats left of it now, tolerates an occasional salt-water bath. Hurricane Dennis taught me an invaluable lesson in what to plant on a barrier island. Plants I thought would make it didnt, and plants I wouldnt have bet on came through without so much as a wilted leaf.
A low bird bath sits among the foliage in my garden, outfitted with a fountain which drips fresh water into it every time the irrigation runs. The ground birds love this fountain especially, and I have spied the occasional butterfly perched there as well, sipping from the shallow cup. At the base of the bird bath, a miracle grows in the form of a maidenhair fern. This little beauty thrived before the hurricane, with its fine, black stems and delicate leaves. I relate ferns to deeply wooded glades and rich, humus soil, and the fact that this plant has been happy in my sand garden is, to me, a miracle.
My garden is a work in progress, which is probably the definition of anyones garden. Life there begins with the microorganisms invisible to my eye, and is endless. It supports plants and birds and salamanders, and doesnt even mind an occasional visit from the dog. Instead of raking the leaves out, now, I rake them in, and cover them with more pine straw so they wont blow away. Someday, I am confident, I will turn over a shovel of sand to fit in another plant and find a worm in my garden. I live for the day.
603 words. Brief, I ain't.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2006 at 1:01PM
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