In two days, 70 of YOU will be filing into my garden, with
(I am sure) highly critical eyes. It’s not the first time, though; every year I
open my garden up to many more people than that—during Garden Walk Buffalo—and,
although the common remarks include “very nice,” “beautiful,” “thanks,” and
“lot of work!,” I know that there must be very many unsaid comments that aren’t
so generic, and maybe a lot more negative.
So be it. We must all stand by our own ideas of what a
garden should be, and what works for us. And, basically, if we’re happy with
our own gardens, then who cares what others think? Well, sure, but when I
deliberately open up my garden yearly—including, this year, a separate opening
for the garden bloggers this week—than I am sort of implying that I think my garden is
worth seeing. As are the other 350-plus Buffalo gardeners who do this. And I do
imply such a thing. Mine is by no means a show garden, but to me it
demonstrates how a small urban garden can include big-time drama. It may be
messy, it may be weedy, it may be lacking in basic design principles, but what
it does have is way too many lush, leafy, and (often) fragrant plants. I’m
happy that such a verdant spot can be created in the middle of the inner city,
and so I volunteer to show it.
There are, however, certain small actions that may
significantly enhance the appearance of a garden before hundreds or thousands
of visitors converge upon it. A few things you can do. I try to find time to:
1. Edge. I don’t mean necessarily using a weed wacker, just
pulling away stuff that extends significantly beyond the beds into walkways or anywhere else intrusive. (Though I find it nearly impossible to cut away flowers, like the ones that
extend from my hydrangeas and lilies.) Maintaining some kind of boundary is easier than weeding. People don't notice the weeds as much if there is order. Of a sort.
2. Mulch. Mulching seems to have
fallen from favor in certain circles, but I find it essential. I could
virtuously say it smothers weeds (maybe) or helps retain soil moisture
(perhaps), but I must be honest and say I like the way it looks. Today I bought
a fine-grained dark (undyed) mulch that seemed like it had been naturally aged.
Whatever. When I spread it around a bed that hadn’t yet filled in, boy, it made
those hakonechloa grasses pop. (Winter gives these such a setback. I hope some day to have a mature stand of them.)
3. Always have a few unusual plants. Over the years, I’ve found I routinely get
comments on plants that visitors have never seen before—two, in my case, are the species
lilium henryi and the annual foliage plant strobilanthes. Orange with
protrusions, and iridescent purple, respectively, these have never failed to
stop traffic. It’s great because it shakes people out of their norm, and maybe
even brings some business to local nurseries. Can a cute plant solve all your
garden problems? I guess not, but it gives you something to get excited about.
And being on a tour is the best way to get excited about your
garden that I know. Do others who do this agree?