While perusing and catching up reading some of my favourite blogs, I stumbled across a most engaging and informative post on Danger Garden. It ended with a query as to how fellow gardeners,if questioned, would describe the ‘evolution’ of their gardening styles?
At first glance, I thought I would have to pass – how is it possible for a plant hoarder’s style to evolve? Once an hoarder, always a hoarder, right? But then I got to thinking. Yes, its true that I have always been drawn to the darker side of life, hence the infatuation with shade gardening. And yes its true that for the most part its more about shape and texture of leaf, and the subtle shifts in the spectrum of the colour green, but there have definitely been noticeable shifts over the years!
It started with weekend walks in the ‘Darkling Woods’ of Lambton County with my Grandparents, where, amongst a plethora of tall, majestic deciduous and coniferous forests, I was introduced to a group of plants that would have a lasting and profound effect on me. The native Arisaema triphyllum [above] is the very first plant that I can visually remember from my childhood. Granted, an over-active imagination, leading to the belief that Satan actually resided in the serpentine spathe might have had something to do with it!
The intoxicating beauty of Cypripedium calcelous not only with her dainty slipper shaped flowers, but the gorgeous pleated and slightly hairy leaves left me weak in the knees and breathless for weeks afterwards!
I grew older, and I would like to think more mature and wizened, and with it came a new appreciation of plants. Many refer to it as the ‘inevitable snobbism associated with the obsessed collector or connoisseur!’ Sounds a wee bit harsh, but for the most part it was true! ‘Common’ names were suddenly old school, thanks in large to an education that enlightened me to the world of Linnaean botanical Latin, [I remain indebted to Larry for that!] and my taste in plants had suddenly been elevated to a playing field dominated with fellow collectors, connoisseurs or as I referred to myself as, a hoarder. I wanted everything rare and unusual!
It was like a drug! I couldn’t get enough. When I’d finally scored a coup, having tracked down what is considered a ‘Holy Grail’ plant, I was on to bigger and better! My postage stamp sized garden was filled with rare and unusual beauties that many had never witnessed before.
So what’s changed? How has a self proclaimed collector/connoisseur/hoarder evolved one may ask? I’ve learned that plants are not conquests! I’m slowly returning to the very plants that brought me such intimate pleasure as a child. I am on the lookout for new and exciting Arisaema species – but no, I am no longer in search of Satan! Cypripediums have stirred my interest and curiosity again, at the behest of my future retirement might I add! I love Polygonatum, Gentiana, Epimedium and Erythronium, and remain besotted with Corydalis – particularly the blue flowering species. I am actually thinking of starting a national collection! I still consider myself a collector-connoisseur-hoarder in every sense of the word, but now I’ve streamlined my focus to a smattering of genera that truly and deeply interest me and bring me the greatest joy!Methinks this year will mark the turning of a new, or perhaps it is an old leaf. I anticipate a few pleasantly, unexpected surprises along the way. Stay tuned!