A messy garden doesn’t reveal much about the occupant – basically like you have other priorities in life, leaving your neighbours to guess – or inquire – what they might be. You remain a private and, to the house-proud, a frustrating enigma.
A well-gardened property says a lot about who you are and what you value. It says that you have an eye for beauty if it’s mostly flowers and shrubs. Plantings of tomatoes, beans or onions on their own or among the flowers says you like fresh, home-grown fruit and/or vegetables. Our garden is mostly beauty with some edible stuff mixed in. We have several gardens, a small shed and a two-story house on our ~ 50′ by 145′ lot. We bought this place in 1985. It was one year old then, so we get the credit or the blame for how it looks now.
In the mid-1970’s I planted some corn outside our ground floor apartment in Etobicoke. It was cool to wake up and see the corn stalks waving in the morning breeze through our bedroom window. The message to our neighbours was probably that we were a little nuts. I was raised in the city, so there was no nostalgia involved. I didn’t say that a garden reveals everything about you.
When it comes to gardening, I am a humble assistant to the architect, my wife. I mow the lawn, do the heavy lifting and decide which lawn “weeds” will be tolerated and which will be pulled. Yes, pulled. While I and, especially, the architect favour a grass lawn, I allow (and promote via seeding) white clover to share the space. I have never sprayed this lawn with weed killer. I use a mulching mower and only occasionally apply fertilizer – but hope not to have to do this at all in the future. White clover is low growing, is a beautiful dark green and actually has nodules on its roots that fix nitrogen from the air, converting it into water soluble nitrates that feed the grass. Bees, now under serious, worldwide threat from pesticide spraying, love clover flowers. I mow the lawn a little higher than the 2.5″ typical height. This helps the lawn stay healthy and green in dry weather and the white clover blooms are not cut.The neighbours think I’m crazy to be out there on my hands and knees pulling dandelions, plantain and knotweed instead of spraying. If they comment it gives me the opportunity to explain why I go to this trouble. Spraying kills microorganisms in the soil that make it healthy. It kills birds and bees, too. It is dangerous to pets and small children and gets into the water.
We have a little bit of a lot of things in our garden: azaleas, lilacs, a few hybrid roses (brave nostalgia from our years in England – they don’t do well), wiegela, monarda, black-eyed susans, day lilies, iris, poppies, holly, tomatoes, chives, herbs and many others. Some we bought; some we were given. A few (like Monarda) I was involved in choosing; the majority I have learned to name via relentless osmosis. We buy annuals every year, too.
A few years ago the architect planted two sweet peas along the chain-link fence between our back yard and our neighbour to the Northwest. The first year I accidentally (and forgetfully) mowed them down. Last year one came back but did not prosper. This year the one remaining plant grew tall and was almost pulled by our neighbour – but she is smarter than I. The happy result is a solitary, precious sweet pea, one of whose many delicate blooms is shown in the above photo. Note: the above was taken with a Tamron 90mm macro lens on my old Maxxum 5D at 1/320 second (shutter priority) and 100 ISO. A tripod and cable shutter release were used.
There is much more to gardening than the above. It encourages meditation and sensitivity to nature. For some it offers the opportunity to lovingly teach and share. I do not count myself among these architects, but my closeness to one such gardener has made me more aware of the important things.