David Robson Extension Educator, Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois
Yard & Garden
Thoughts of an Opinionated Gardener
As long as something is green and growing, that’s OK by me
June 8-13 is National Garden Week, a time to celebrate all our individual gardening efforts, hopefully on the positive side. The key word there is “individual.”
Gardeners can be a pretty fickle bunch, as well as an opinionated group.
For example, I have a passion for ceramic pots, particularly those thick and glazed blue, though I have a couple bright chartreuse and a couple brick red ones. I detest plastic pots, though I realize they are easier to move and quite a bit cheaper than the blue ones that I buy. But my garden colors are blue.
Thick pots, while more costly, last longer than the paper-thin types. Santa gave me a dolly to transport them to my garage for the winter. I don’t look where the pots are made because I know they probably aren’t manufactured in the United States.
I also prefer brick or stone edging to plastic or metal types. I even prefer an edging spade to plastic or metal edging. That’s my choice.
You can have all the pink flowers in the world. It’s not that I hate pink. It looks good in many gardens and on many people. Nothing combines better with purple to create a soft and visually cool garden in the summer – just not in my garden. It just isn’t my color, and it definitely doesn’t look good with blue pots. I appreciate the color, but that’s the extent.
OK, in the sake of total honesty, I have some pink Lycoris or surprise lilies. In my defense, they were given to me on a July 4th about 18 years ago when the temperature was over 100 degrees.
I thought they were daffodils or I wouldn’t have taken them. They came from a close friend’s estate. When they popped out in August, I said a few choice words. However, they were planted where I never see them on my front hill. They aren’t visible from the house, and I use the alley for access to the garage instead of the driveway. If someone picked them, I wouldn’t mind.
I also have some extremely pale pink, almost white, peonies from the same source. They are right next to some deep red ones, which only highlight the rose-tinge. Sentimentality can override all other aspects of gardening. Sigh.
Mulch has to be organic, and preferably composted and unobtrusive. The latter means that it doesn’t look like mulch, which means big chips or bark pieces are out. The mulch of choice is cocoa bean hulls, which are perfectly acceptable in my yard since I don’t have any dogs.
Now, some like white rock. That’s okay if you’re fine calling attention to the white rock. The human eye goes to white no matter what. White looks as natural in Illinois landscapes as pink flamingoes, but if you’re happy with that, that’s swell; to each his own.
I have weeds. There, I said it. I own up to that fact. My front yard is far from perfect. (I have no grass in the back yard; it’s all plants, pots and patio.)
My front lawn is more of a green patch of plants than turf grass. The words used are “environmentally diverse” since no one can argue with either of the words. If someone presses, I just say I’m doing biological research into weed control, and under my breath I say that I’m not winning.
My goal is to have fewer weeds than my neighbors. That’s all. It’s not creating a weed-free yard, as that’s next to impossible. There are few weeds in the flowerbeds, especially the ones mulched. But if you look long and hard, you’ll find some. I just ask you to pull them.
All this means is that gardening is personal. We can provide you with all the information to have a picture-perfect yard. We can give you all the recommendations and you can then say “Ah, that’s too much work. As long as something is green and growing, that’s OK by me.”
And that’s OK by me as well.
David Robson is an Extension Educator, Horticulture, at the Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois Extension, P.O. Box 8199, Springfield, IL 62791. Telephone: 217-782-6515.
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