Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Question of Order

You know that old saying, Better is the enemy of good? I think this principle applies to gardening, or my garden anyway, when it comes to trying to keep everything in order.

We have a big place; my husband works a lot of hours and it's impossible for the two of us to keep a place like this looking perfect all of the time. It's never going to happen. I'd rather enjoy what we have than be a slave to it anyway.

We keep the lawns, pastures, and garden paths mowed. That in itself is enough work. But other things we let go. For example, someone put ditches next to the road that runs beside the pastures. I'd like to wring this nameless person's neck, because it doesn't help with drainage, running cross to the main drainage routes as it does, and it creates work for us. It's a good 2400' of ditch. We mow it twice a year to keep down the woody plants, and try to time the mowing so as to allow Bidens to fill the ditches. In a wet year they are magnificent in September. My husband doesn't really like for the ditches to grow up like that, until the Bidens bloom. :) But I think he's getting used to it.

I want parts of my garden to have structure and order, but overall my garden is too big, and it's too hot in the summers to keep everything just so. With so much new garden around the house and only expanding, I will have to take a more laissez-faire approach to the big perennial bed and the beds near the old house site.

I do spend a fair amount of time weeding. But each spring the Dead-Nettle comes up in the big perennial bed, and I leave it until it gets too tall or starts dying back.

Henbit too.

The chief reason I leave these plants is that the bees love them. It's basically a pasture for them to feed on, until other things start blooming.


  1. I feel the same way. I leave the skeletons standing all winter so the birds can find any seed left behind. Also, I admit, I hate that barren look of a garden cut down and 'cleaned up'. To me 'cleaned up' looks empty and abandoned. But that's why formal gardens are popular with some, things are in rows and always neat. Give me the cottage-y sprawl with a riot of lush growth and blooms everywhere.

  2. Sweetbay...this is exactly how I feel. Henbit is one of my favorite flowers and there is a tiny violet like flower that is adorable. It's kind of funny, but when I added the lawn and the mulched foundation planting off the neatnik garden friends were thrilled! One even made an appointment for her husband to see it! I loved this post and the photos of our pals the bees. gail

  3. Hi Marnie and Gail, I'm glad you feel as I do. Sometimes differences in landscaping philosophies can result in conflict, such as when the in-laws come over and comment. :(~ I really do like the lushness of a cottage-type garden. I like the vitality.

  4. I feel the same way too - to much to do to take care of everything. Your pictures are great but I wouldn't have the nerve to take a shot that close to a bee. My husband tells me they don't all sting ya but I've made a believer out of him now that they ALL chase me! ;-)

  5. Sweetbay,

    I agree with you, a neat garden lacks having as much wildlife and is boring. Good posting.

  6. RainGardener, the male Carpenter Bees seem to check out and chase everything, lol. The Dirt Daubers are very curious too, but I have yet to be stung by one.

  7. Thanks Randy. If there's something about the garden that wildlife likes, I leave it. The garden is as much for them as it is for me.

  8. Hi Sweetbay, this is certainly food for thought. The henbit doesn't bother me as much as it did when the garden was young. Planting more plants to shade out the weeds is the answer to constant weeding. Ground covers can do wonders. Our biggest weed problem is the wild violets. Their large rhizome prevents the good guys from self sowing and it smothers many smaller things out. There is no getting rid of it however, so we just have to learn to live with it. The only weed I declare war against is crabgrass. :-)

  9. Hi Frances -- this area is open because it's been full of iris. Other areas are not as overrun with Dead Nettle and Henbit. :) This garden was originally just a big perennial bed, but I have been shading shrubs for structure, winter interest, and just ease of culture.

    It's not as though there aren't weeds that I loathe. (!) Bermudagrass can be a problem here (although it is possible to shade it out), but IMO Japanese Stilt Grass is worse. *Nothing* shades it out.

  10. Sweet bay ?? Is that in reference to a horse or laurel? Lovely name in any case. I too agree with your philosophy. Just think of all the food your "weeds" provide... lovely carpet about your iris... lovely pictures too... and yes there are some plants we must control. I have given up fighting bishops weed but years ago began planting more shrubs and now it does not defeat me. Carol

  11. Carol, the name refers to both. :) My bay TB mare, dam of my big horse, and the Sweet Bay (Magnolia virginiana) that grows wild on the farm.

  12. Hi Sweet Bay,
    In my mind, landscaping is more for people who don't garden. I imagine some gardeners are neater than others, but I am not able to make lines straight. I consider myself a plant collector. I am learning how to fill spaces.

    If I lived in the country, I would not try to be rid of every weed. Even in the city, I don't. I let violets grow in my veggie garden, and add the leaves and flowers to the lettuce I pick for salads.

    I love your pics of the flowers and bees. I'm glad you keep them there for the bees.

  13. I forgot to mention that my husband just spent several days sucking up leaves into his leaf vacuum dealy and putting them on my compost piles. I kept telling him I didn't want every single leaf up, but he was obsessed. He did leave a few in the flower beds, but took more than I wanted him to.

    He also got the yard furniture and decorations out and put them where he liked them. I forgot to check the garbage can to see if he threw anything away. He said he doesn't want the back yard cluttered this summer, and he moved some of my pots around so he could get one of his grills off the deck.

    That's OK, I'll be filling up more spaces in the ground this year.

  14. Sue, that's funny about your husband collecting every leaf. Your beds do look good. People would come here and ask if we rake all of the leaves and pine needles. We don't -- I have not had a problem with plants being smothered, because leaves fall so late here, and the clay subsoil at the old house site could use every bit of help that it could get.

    I have heard of adding violets to salads (even ice cubes). That is a wonderful idea.

    Sue, I agree that landscaping is more for people who don't garden! I have noticed that many people who don't garden admire mall plantings. Now, not all such plantings are bad, but many local to me are not ones I aspire to.

  15. PS Sue, I wanted to add that what I don't understand is people who collect leaves and throw them out instead of composting them. They're throwing away gold!


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