Friday, August 10, 2007

Free-Spirit Gardening...Is It For You?

My Free-Spirited Garden

The other day I stumbled across a book in my library that I had forgotten about. It's the free-spirited GARDEN: Gorgeous Gardens That Flourish Naturally, by Susan McClure. Funny how books appeal to me differently from time to time, depending on where I am at the moment. This one jumped right out at me as I realized that this is pretty much how I garden. Susan describes a free-spirited garden as, ...a carefree blend of flowers, herbs, and vegetables that reproduce themselves, arise impromptu from seeds, or spread into bold masses and drifts. She goes on to say that, "free-spirited plants multiply without need for your help or money, they fit perfectly into modern lifestyles."

So, I take a mental look at my gardens. Now, is this free-spirited.... or are these invasive plants run amok?? She does a good job of defining the difference, but I'm not sure... where do you draw the line? Susan explains that "among the exuberant free-spirited plants are tyrants..." One of the examples she uses is spearmint. It's all how willing we are to manage the "more rambunctious free-spirited plants."

This is an enjoyable and informative book with glossaries and photos scattered throughout. I recognized many of the free-spirited perennials in my gardens: Common yarrow, Bugleweed, Clustered Bellflower, Snow-in-Summer, Plumbago, Creeping Jenny, etc. Most of all, it gives me permission to defend my kind of gardening. I tend to let things creep and leap, but I also keep an eye on them. And when they get to the point that they are, in my opinion, getting out of hand, or taking up too much of their neighbor's space, I "rearrange" them.

That's just what I did yesterday. I grew tired of looking at several plants that were too leggy and covering up a nice little Blue Mist Spirea that was beginning to grow. I cut back and yanked out a lot of stuff and instantly felt better. But it was funny. I found myself having this conversation with my plants:

(Me) Okay you guys, you've outgrown your limits and as much as I hate to I'm cutting you back and getting you more under control. Consider this tough love.
(Plant) Suurrrre, when you didn't have anything growing here you thought we were just fine! It was okay for us to spread all over that empty space where you needed something green. Now that you have some fancy new plants you are cutting us back. That's gratitude for you! We feel soooo used. Humphh!!
(Me) No, no, no. I really do appreciate what you have done for the garden. You were there for me when I needed you and I want you to know that I really do acknowledge how beautiful you have been. Look how pretty you will look with your new neighbors and your new hair cut.
I must say I ususally feel a little guilty, but it did need to be done. I see many Free-Spirited gardens on the garden blogs I read. I think most of us gardeners are just free-spirited people anyway.


Beth said...

That's so interesting. I was just recently thinking how much I love plants that grow with abandon. I don't like watching things forever and a day thinking, 'Fill in. Fill IN!' I'd rather have something a tad aggressive that I have to pull back (I'm thinking vinca) but gives the garden a full, effusive, my-cup-runneth-over kind of look. I'm with you on that!

Marie said...

Hello again! Marie from Norway paid you a visit :o)

Carol said...

Bev... better be careful which plants you are talking to! Some of them will come back stronger and bigger than ever after you cut them back.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

jocelyn said...

I'm with you Bev, there's a difference between the free-spirited and the horribly aggresive (think Mexican primrose---yikes!) I have an area that I encourage things to seed in to--I really want a naturalized look there. You just have to keep on top of it!

Gina said...

thanks for the description of the book. i think this is what i aspire to be so before I get too far into this gardening thing maybe i should pick up a copy of this book in hopes of preventing any flowers gone wild.

Connie said...

Thanks for sharing about this book.... that is definitely my garden style. I look forward to a good read!

LostRoses said...

Very funny post, Bev, and so true! Yeah, free-spirited, that describes it. This time of year (and sometimes much earlier) I'm busy yanking and pulling a few of the aggressives out of the way. The banes of my garden are spearmint (youthful folly), and yellow archangel. And of course, the self-sown, strangling morning glories. If they'd only strangle themselves and not the "pretties"!

Bev said...

Beth - that's what I think too. I like that look, obviously.

Hi Marie - glad to see you again.

Carol - now you've scared me! I think I'll hide in the house where they can't find me for a few days, then go out armed with my Japanese weeder!

Gina and Connie - I hope you can find this book. My husband found on one of those sale tables in a bookstore.

Joceyln - Don't even mention Mexican primrose to me!!! That has been (and still is) the biggest mistake of my so far career as a gardener. And last year my husband did me a favor by transplanting it along one of the long strips that had some bare spots. OMG!! Guess what his job is going to be next spring?

LR - It gook me 2 years to get my spearment under control. NOW.... it I could only deal with those morning glories!! Aren't they something? They'll grow up your leg if you stand there too long.

Annie in Austin said...

When I think about it, Bev, at all our houses I've made some areas that were kept under strict control, and other places where I let the flowers bloom with abandon and reseed - at least for awhile!

Usually the wilder places were surrounded by driveway and lawn, which kept them from invading other borders.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose