In the garden of benign neglect

by DaniGirl on June 9, 2010 · 5 comments

in Happy @ home, Life, the Universe and Everything

Did you ever read Stephen King’s Pet Semetary, where dead things mysteriously come back to life?

Yeah, my garden is like that. When we moved in back in 2003, there were two trees — really, barely more than saplings — in the back yard. Not long after, one of them reverted to upright stick status and leafed no more. It took about another two or three years for me to get around to removing the dead tree, which by then pretty much just snapped off when I pushed on it. And then, much to my surprise, another two years after that I noticed that what I thought was a particularly lovely weed scaling the fence about 2m from where the tree used to be turned out to be the crabapple tree resurrected. It was growing WAY too close to the fence, and I should have cut it down, but I admired its tenacity. It’s now more than 20 ft tall, and does this every spring.

108:365 Apple blossoms

A year or so after we moved in, I planted a clematis beside the front door. It lasted maybe a month, and promptly withered and died. I’m kinda used to that. I’ve got about a 50/50 record with gardening anyway, and with so many other living things under my care, once they get into the ground, the plants are pretty much on their own. Thus, the garden of benign neglect.

Just like its crabapple cousin, though, about four years after the clematis died, a mysterious plant climbed the trellis near the front door. Imagine my delight when I realized it was the long-departed and non-since-seen clematis, coming back for another grow at it. It’s currently thriving and covered with fat purple and white blossoms.

159:365 Clematis

I love the things that grow in my garden, and only wish I had more enthusiasm to care for them. I’ve got daisies on the brink of exploding into colour; I’ve got lilacs and peonies and morning glories. Tulips and irises grace us in spring, while lazy susans and coneflowers bloom in midsummer. I’ve got two apple trees, and some wild roses. I’ve got a bleeding heart that has completely taken over its bed, and a honeysuckle that I almost tore out because it chokes out all the other plants, but this summer it finally burst into gorgeous orange blossoms. And all of it? Pretty much does whatever the hell it wants. Every now and then I get out with my pruning shears and fill two or five bags with shrubs that have overgrown their welcome, or daylillies that threaten to take over the yard. But mostly, they have the run of the garden beds.

You know what’s really delightful about the garden of benign neglect? Last year I had a spontaneous appearance of raspberries in one patch that has now spread to not two but four locations around the property. And by “property” I mean our 100 ft deep by maybe 25 ft wide postage-stamp of a lot. And those raspberry bushes are absolutely laden with blooms. They’re going to be producing by the pint in about four weeks, and I’m positively drooling at the thought.

Each week when I haul my ass out to cut the grass, I look around my unkempt and luscious gardens and castigate myself for not taking better control of them. I love the idea of gardening, it’s just one of those things that I never seem to get around to. And now I’m feeling vaguely disappointed that we’ve nearly reached mid-June and once again I’ve forgotten to plant some tomatoes, and the bushel-baskets I rescued from someone’s garden to fill to overflowing with wildflower annuals are still sitting empty in the garage where I first stashed them.

It’s a good thing the garden, much like the children, seem to thrive in a climate of benign and affectionate neglect.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amber June 9, 2010 at 2:19 pm

I was very benignly neglectful of my garden for years. And then in the past couple of years I got more serious. I’m sort of inclined to go back to the benign neglect, honestly. As much as I love growing veggies, I find the sadness when it doesn’t work rather traumatic. When some random plant died, it was OK. When my babies that I’ve nurtured from seed die, I take it way too personally.

2 2Hirondelles June 10, 2010 at 9:22 am

Seriously, I’m with you and Amber. I get way too emotionally invested in my ‘babies’.

Clematis can be very fussy, yet can withstand tons of abuse. I love them and have several. As a pup, our older dog chewed anything and everything in the yard, including two clematis, down to little nubs. One grew back that same year, the other made a magical reappearance a couple/3 years later.

We have gooseberry bush that I planted for DS, ’cause she loooves them. She prefers them almost-ripe. I do nothing to it except mow around it. This year was a bumper crop, and she was so looking forward to her treats. Alas, our second dog, just a year old now, has also discovered that gooseberries are good, and he likes them a little less ripe than she does.

This is what happens to our raspberries, too. It’s quite something to see a canine delicately peel back their lips and gingerly pluck a fruit from a prickly branch. Yours probably came from birds. You have a dog, don’t you? Serve her one when they’re ready. She’ll figure out the rest. It would make a good photo, Dani.

3 DaniGirl June 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm

You think I’m going to let the dog eat my raspberries?! Not in this lifetime!! I’m still trying to figure out how to keep the Toddling Menace from figuring out that they’re edible (especially when there are other things in the garden that are not, but look enticing.)

Last year, I made the mistake of showing Lucas the tomatoes, and had a bumper crop of beefsteak tomatoes with bites taken out of them!!

4 allison June 10, 2010 at 7:33 pm

I’m a guerilla gardener too. I throw things in on blind faith and see what comes up, leave everything to take over New York for weeks and then go out for an afternoon and at the end I’m covered with dirt and blood and the shrubs are sitting there with their bad haircuts going “WTF just happened?”

5 2Hirondelles June 11, 2010 at 8:19 am

Dani, allison, thanks for the morning laugh. The mental images of those tomatoes and shrubs….

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