Sunday, March 26, 2006


I had our neighbor and her two small girls over to see the backyard garden this evening. The azaleas are done (and nothing can take their place in terms of lighting up the yard), but overall the garden looks fairly reasonable. The dogs were, as always, desperate for attention, which rather spooked the girls.

The elder child, a self-described insect-lover, actually found a woolly bear chrysalis in a small pile of debris that included its castoff skin.

But despite the yard looking fine and the thrill of finding the chrysalis, as I showed them around all I could see were the "flaws" of the garden from the perspective of the owner of a manicured yard.

I am upset with myself for this. I have delusions of teaching others to live in greater harmony with the natural world, yet make myself ashamed of my own yard where I practice what I preach? Why should I feel obligated to live up to their standards of "cleanliness" when I know that those standards are false and are part of what gets most suburban dwellers into the soul-less chemical and sterile hell that constitutes most yards?

On the other hand, there is nothing like inviting guests into the garden to make me really see the dewberry I haven't pulled up yet, the bare ground that still needs mulch, the overexuberant Artemesia and Aster that needs to be contained and/or removed, and the myriad of other projects that I just haven't gotten around to yet.

The garden doesn't mind the incomplete projects but, despite myself, I do. At least when I have guests....

Suddenly the light is going on! These were guests that I wanted to impress positively with my gardening philosophy. THAT'S why I'm so bummed at myself. If I'm going to "convert" conventional gardeners, I have to meet their expectations, at least in part, as well as my own.

Well, the plant sale will be done in a week, and I will be able to concentrate on my own priorities instead of my volunteer responsibilites. I must admit that I am more than ready to shift gears.

On a more upbeat note, yesterday morning my husband replaced a birdhouse that had lost its floor and by yesterday evening the titmice were already checking it out. That would add a fourth species of bird nesting in or around the yard!


baileynb9 said...

hi mom abbott it's nicole. i found your blog via candice's and figured i'd see what you were up to. this post about showing your garden to others got me thinking about the gardens here in england, and particularly in london where there is usually a small space in which to cultivate them. gardens of course are something that the english take a lot of pride in, and i normally love looking at them (when they are not walled or hedged in which is a shame), but i've been losing interest lately and i think you hit on why. the gardens here tend to be too perfect. they are almost uniformly laid out and always manicured exactly to some unwritten neighborhood specifications. perhaps if someone let their grass get a bit too long, or missed a few of the weeds now and then, my interest would be peaked again!

Gaia Gardener: said...


Thank you! That definitely helps make me feel better.

I'd love to get to England to explore the gardens there - it's sort of the gardeners' Mecca, so to speak. And of course there are the minor details of all of the culture and history available to explore too.

Anyway, with most of the gardens in London being small and highly visible, the incentive (as well as the ability) to keep them manicured would be greatly increased.

Hope your time in England is going well. I sure enjoyed your newsy e-mails when you first got there.

baileynb9 said...

unfortunatly i no longer have much time for news emails, and besides there's just too much news to put in there! school is going great, but i'm looking forward to going back to the states the first week of march.

actually, shortly after i get back my fiance and i will be going houseplant shopping as part of the redecorating process. i usually stick to pothos and philodendruns plus some bamboo because they're safe. any recommendations for slightly more exciting house plants? i've also taken up tending orchids which i love. they're a bit of a challenge though!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Dracaena and Mother-in-law's tongue are also good, easy houseplants. Christmas cactus is generally fairly straightforward too.

If you get more interested/adventuresome, you can branch out (yes, I know, bad pun) into begonias, ferns, Pepperomia, Coleus, geraniums, spider plants, and a host of others.

Growing houseplants is, in its way, like having an indoor garden. You need to pay attention to the environmental conditions you have and try to match the plants to where you will be growing them. And, of course, you the gardener get to play rain god and nutrient god and so forth.

I'd suggest just getting a few plants that appeal to you (after checking their tags or a book to make sure that you have SOME reasonable chance of providing the conditions they need) and experimenting. Ultimately, that's what a lot of gardening comes down to!