3 Mar 2012

A Sharper Focus: Listening to the Heart


I mentioned in an earlier post that part of my ‘evolution’ as a plant hoarder has resulted in my ‘returning to my roots’ so- to-speak. Over the years I have amassed a rather formidable collection of rare and unusual plants. This is not meant to sound grandiose or as a braggart, it is simply the net result of being a self-professed hoarder! The rarer the plant, the more difficult the quest, the sweeter the accolades. Many years ago I’d heard of a small group of gardeners who made it their life goal to seek out what was referred to as the ‘Holy Grail’ selections. Never would have I imagined that I’d toss my meager cap into the foray!

DSC_0067  Its been an exhilarating ride for the most part. You spend months, sometimes years seeking out that one special plant that has captivated and left you breathlessly besotted! Finally it is within grasp! And then in the blink of an eye it’s gone! Totally disappeared from the radar! This is the life of the collector/hoarder.


 But somewhere along the way, I found my passion was being replaced with obsession. Indeed there is a thin line of differentiation, at least from my point of view. While the excitement was there, it felt like it was drug induced – sort of like coming down off a caffeine high!


I’ve spent my winter months in relative solitude, listening to my heart and soul, and they are telling me that part of my restlessness stems from trying to maintain a garden that has become something of a sideshow! One would be hard pressed to deny the fact that it is filled chockablock full of rare and unusual plants – it is a collector’s garden after all. And herein lies the problem.

My first introduction – my earliest memory of garden plants – came when I was maybe six or seven. On weekends I would traverse the ‘Darkling Wood’ with my Grandparents. It was there that I was first introduced to Arisaema, Trillium, Cypripedium, Sanguinaria – all of our local, native flora. I had my own narrow patch of shade at their place and it was there that I grew not only these same plants, but also assorted Fern, Asarum, Aconitum…. all of the plants that were responsible for my fascination with shade gardening.


I remember my Grandmother asking me one Saturday if I would like to go with her to visit a friend’s garden. I was most excited that there were more people like us – people who actually took pride in cultivating a small plot of flowers and foliage. Her friend was downsizing – moving into an apartment – and having recalled my Grandmother’s rather substantial property which she had filled with flower borders, she hoped that my Grandmother would be willing to offer some of her most prized plants a new home: ‘A place where I can come and visit them time to time!’

I remember as though it were yesterday: I was mesmerized with a shaded garden she had planted beneath a stand of tall, majestic conifers. In this bed were many of the plants that I had first witnessed during my ‘Darkling Wood’ excursions: the same Arisaema, the tall majestic Matteucia, the diminutive Trillium…. yet there were many that I was unfamiliar with. One in particular caught my attention. Somewhat low growing with thin wiry stems and foliage that could be arrow or heart shaped, pending on the precise plant, and the most adorable flowers! Flowers so small that you had to be down on hands and knees to fully appreciate them. Indeed, it was the demure Epimedium that had captured my heart!

So where am I going with this tangent? I’ve decided that 2012 is going to be the year to rediscover the thrill of gardening, by means of a sharper, keener focus on the genera that first captured my attention and left me besotted for lack of a better word. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I am giving up my hoarding/collecting ways – at this stage in life I think it would prove impossible – but it is allowing for me to streamline my collection somewhat. Hell, it might even lead to my starting my own National Collection where my absolute favourite genera are concerned. Just think…… the first comprehensive collection of blue flowering Corydalis! I can see it in my mind’s eye at this very moment!

I hope that my loyal readers and followers will continue to support me with their kind words and comments. I’m rather quaking with excitement and anticipation. I’ve assembled a list of my Top Five genera that I want to focus my attention on this year:

Arisaema, Epimedium, Polygonatum, Cypripedium and Corydalis [of course!]


CanadianGardenJoy said...

I love how you wrote this Barry !
The tie to your amazing and loving grandmother with how she connected you to these precious plants ..
I in fact, am going to renovate my hellebore bed with companion plants such as "your" epimedium" that make my helleblore shine and in return make each companion plant, shine even more themselves. Thank you for pushing me towards these gorgeous plants my friend : )
I love your "Darkling Woods" phrase more so because I too as a child played in such a comforting yet exhilarating atmosphere : )
Far away from people and so much closer to the earth. I am so grateful for that experience : )

The Garden Ms. S said...

Teza, I look forward to your continued evolution as a gardener. It is a fascinating journey and you have certainly wooed me to the "dark side" of the garden. :)

Paul Jung said...

Hi Barry,

thanks for sharing your story about you, an evolving gardener. While I didn't have a grandmother who nurtured my gardening side (actually, she was a grade 1 teacher with a tomato seedling in a styrofoam cup), your reminisces evoke something in gardening friends.

It's interesting that you're focusing your lens this year towards the "top five". I tend to collect more on the woody side like Acer palmatum, viburnum and cornus but our obsessions can't help but surface (often in polite but disinterested company, lol!)