Sunday Opinion II What Not to Do

Sometimes a sense of what not to do in a garden can be as valuable as a sense of what would be good to go ahead with.  Up front, I would say I like all manner of gardens; I have only seen a few I did not like.  I think talent is local-not geographically confined to New York, Paris, Milan, and Los Angeles.  I see very talented people, making incredibly interesting things everywhere I go.   I have my dark moments, but I try to limit the time I spend on those. I certainly don’t want to devote too much space here to the no word.   But some things I avoid, when I can.

The World Series of Gardening:  Though the English would try to convince you of such,  given the years, time, and effort they have spent throwing the Chelsea Garden Show, there is no such thing as a Landscape and Gardening World Series.  The World Series applies to baseball, nothing else.   Once you garden for what someone else might love, or gasp about,  plan on your resentment to rise accordingly. Who wants to be admired for something you planned to elicit approval? Be true to your own ideas.   Gardening is about a stew of self expression and science, seasoned by nature.  Someone once told me the definition of an expert is someone brought in from out of town at great expense.  No kidding.  Trust your instincts and imagination, as long as you do no harm. Don’t put off getting help, if you need it.  I most admire individual and genuine expression-no matter what form that takes.  No one else’s expression threatens yours, period.

Don’t worry your garden.  I subscribe to the notion that most plants have an incredibly strong will to live. I try to let them be, as much as possible.  I enrich the soil with compost, I plant properly, I water: I make sure the soil is fertile.  Then I try to stand back, and appreciate what is miraculous about the natural world.  I don’t dust, sweep, polish, wash or straighten up, to excess.  Nature doesn’t need a whole lot of intervention from me-she’s been at the business of life many millions of years.

Don’t ignore the big picture.   Anyone who caretakes a piece of land,  is gardener-like it, or not.  A title to a piece of land,  is a piece of paper which is mostly about human community, and nothing about the stewardship of the earth we are so lucky to have.  Take care of what is entrusted to you-its a responsibility.  Keep your property up-this is appreciated by all your neighbors.  The weather applies equally to everyone-what are you thinking, planting tropical annuals in advance of warmer soil temperatures?  Tune in to the natural rhythm of things-don’t insist on your agenda.  I regret the big numbers of beautifully grown plants killed by too early, or too late a planting.

 There are so many great products available to gardeners; but there are people who misuse that science. Read the directions.  More may not be better.  Be caring;  think before you apply.

Most of all, don’t fail to understand that this planet is occupied by tens upon thousands of living things-all equally important.  Your voice is one of many.  Most true gardeners I meet understand this.

Sunday Opinion: What To Do

I have spent the last two days, and Memorial Day yet to come, talking to gardening clients about what to do.  What pots are right?   What shall I plant in those pots?   What trees would be good; I need some shade.  How can this perennial garden be a little better  than last year?  What is my problem, that I can’t grow columbines? What do I do about the woodchucks, the chipmunks, the rabbits, the neighbor’s dog and the Japanese beetles?  What will tolerate all the wind off the lake, the heat of the pavement, the soccer ball?  There’s excitement in the air;  the season is in session.  There’s grumbling about the cold spring, the vicious winter that claimed this old tree wisteria and heaved up a slew of new perennials planted a shade too late the previous fall.  We are talking about graduation parties, potato salad,  where to get grill parts, do you favor powerwashing decks, or not?   Needless to say, given all the activities that come with being able to live a little outdoors,  I have talked a lot the past 2 days.

But the best advice I have: plan your moves.  Pick a project. A reasonably sized project. Master plan the next 5 years of your landscape in the winter. If your landscape is important, its not a Memorial Day emergency.  If your garden is an emergency, its not that important.  Get organized.  Cut out pictures of things you like.  Make a file; write your thoughts, then figure out what about each picture interests you-with people there are threads that can be woven together to make something.  If you try for everything and everywhere all at once, nothing will be thoroughly executed, and everything will show the lack of focus.  We Americans live such crazy lives-take a two hour lunch, and dream a little.

  Read up on all those annuals and perennials you see only in leaf-do not succumb to buying only those things you see in bloom. So much of a garden is about seduction-give in to it, but be good natured about the outcome.   Do not succumb to pictures in catalogues-a photograph records only 1/125 of a second in the garden-do read about things you like-assess their staying power.  Visit other people’s garden’s. Move things around. Go for broke.  Hang back, if something makes your pulse go quiet.    Most everyone has an imagination that works, if you give some time to letting it work. Read the tags, ask for help, take notes. Give it some time.   Be in charge of your garden; no one cares about it more than you do. 

In short, do something.  This season is in session.

At a Glance- Spring Violet

Violet Mix

Violet Mix

Viola and Pansy Mix

Violet Mix

Purple Mix

Violet Mix

Sweet Alyssum

Sweet Alyssum

Lilac

Lilac

Sweet Alyssum

Sweet Alyssum

Phlox Divaricata "Loddon's Blue"

Phlox Divaricata "Lodden's Blue"

Pansy

Pansy

Purple Mix

Purple Mix

The Music of the Spheres

sphereThough I am fond of almost every geometric shape, I am especially enamored of spheres.  Spheres in any material or arrangement.
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I manufacture large garden spheres, thanks to the conceptual and fabrication talents of one Buck Moffat.  An architect for 30 years, he now fabricates pergolas, boxes, furniture-and these spheres, from welded steel.  We galvanize and acid-wash the raw steel, which produces a finish not unlike the look of lead.
sphere1
This finish is as close to permanent and maintenance-free of any exterior finish on steel that I have seen.  Although I recognize that anything to do with gardening, or life for that matter, requires maintenance, I like these things that quietly and effective resist the elements.
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Designing and fabricating these spheres was his idea.  Only after he built the first one, did he do a CAD drawing of it.  Its a gift, to be able to conceptualize like this. He’s a person who loves old industrial steel in any form-bridges, buildings, gears and the like.  He thinks the old factories along the Rouge River in Detroit are gorgeous. One of his favorite possessions is a collection of the fabrication drawings for the Eiffel Tower.
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It’s quite a feat, building these spheres.  The strap steel is rolled, hoisted up on a bridge crane, then each strap is placed on a specially made jig- in order to spin the steel ribs in the round without having to lift  them.   Each juncture is hand riveted, so the finished shape is precisely spherical.  They have mass and presence with no mass.  They describe a  specific volume of air. They are all the more compelling for what isn’t there.  I have seen them roll off in a wind.
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The rod steel spheres approximate a perfect sphere in a believable way, and are less labor intensive to construct. We hang them from trees, set them in very large containers, or simply roll them onto a lawn. Most large spheres I see are constructed in two hemispheres. This just isn’t the same, as a sphere all of a piece.�
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Jonathon Hofley owns the Michigan Gardener Magazine, and Motor City Publishing;  he has done all of my advertising and PR for many years.  He kindly agreed to photograph the spheres for me in the tall grass which came with the property where Buck makes these spheres;  thanks, Jonathon.sphere7

Like a good landscape, these spheres look all the better for the environment in which they are placed .sphere8

That garden sculpture can energize a landscape space with a particular point of view is a given. But I hear music when I look at these spheres.