23 Feb 2011

Dramatis Personae: Dilemma in the Garden


Most of the residents that make up my garden inventory would easily fall under the category of ‘Dramatis personae’ – plants that with little or no help create bold, sometimes architectural statements within the garden setting.
I envy the ‘national collections’ where entire borders are dedicated to a single genus: imagine if you will a border filled with Helleborus! Of course  ‘collection holding’ is a status in and of itself that fills most gardeners with daunting trepidation to say the very least! Perhaps if I were to have the space that is required in order to house a National collection, I might just consider one made up of Corydalis, or better yet, the elusive Meconopsis! In the meantime, I am quite happy to be on the outside ledge looking in, with a border that demands that its players are all lead players.

 I was perusing the pages of a book that I ordered last year, slightly enamored by the oxymoronic title: Design in the Plant Collector’s Garden. Is it possible? Seriously! To me, the notion of design where the obsessive plant collector is concerned is like, well, for me personally, it would be akin to discovering Atlantis or the Fountain of Youth. The inside flap of the books begins with this rather bold statement: ‘All gardeners love plants, but if you love them too much chances are you will end up with a plant collection rather than a garden! And what may I ask is wrong with having a plant collection? Think back to the ‘national collections’ I spoke of earlier! 

Gardens are an extension of your personality, one of the truest forms of autobiography, and for me these statements couldn’t be truer. I love the initial response that my eclectic garden elicits from visitors: ‘Ohh goodness me, what is that?’ is usually followed by ‘Just how many plants do you have in this tiny garden?’ and wait for it, ‘So tell me, how do you get this plant to grow in Zone 5?’ And what pray tell does this say about it’s gardener? As I mentioned in a presentation I gave last week, conformity is not a word in this gardener’s dictionary. I also challenge the rules. I want to stop people dead in their tracks, or at least slow them down so they have to actually get down on bended knee to fully appreciate the coquettish beauty of a startling miniature Epimedium species!

Of course, sometimes it is challenging when trying to place your latest acquisition. I usually know exactly where I want to place it until I actually return home, plant firmly in my grasp, only to discover that there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that it will be able to ‘compete’ with one of it’s more ‘dramatic’ neighbors – the ones I lovingly refer to as the Drama Queens. How is one to cope? I think there’s an old adage: ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!’ How else could one take two such DQ’s and still manage this result?

hort presentation foliage supreme

I’m more than curious to know how fellow self professed, addicted plant collectors deal with ‘design’ dilemmas. Are you regimented in your design philosophy, adhering to the edicts, do you exercise a modicum of adventurism, or are you like me and shrug it all off as a non-conformist?


jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

I read an article in a UK publication in which a rather insufferable individual was yammering on about plant collectors arent doing real gardeners any favours...this from an individual with a bunch of clipped Buxus and tiresome lawn and...well you get my point! I love the joys of plant collecting and of my garden is alwayscin flux, so be it. It's my garden...now then about those Meconopsis you crave...cool soil, lots of organic matter, moisture and mulch mulch mulch to keep em cool! Good luck!

allanbecker-gardenguru said...

I just received a review copy of that same book. As soon as I began to read it, I thought of you and asked myself, "I wonder what Barry would say", I have my answer now.