Report From PIA – December 1
I heard from fellow garden writer Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp this morning, asking about an article I’ve written for Angie’s List Magazine. Although she hadn’t read yesterday’s blog post, her email continued the conversation about clearing perennial gardens at this time of year.
Jo Ellen mentioned that some gardeners leave the stalks as food for the birds and wildlife. This is a sensitive and valid approach to gardening…it’s just one that I follow only on a limited basis.
I leave the seed heads on all of the plants that grow in my wild area. Here, black-eyed Susans, assorted Verbascum and red clover happily stand untouched, with assorted grasses and weeds. I even bring some stalks and seed-heads from garden perennials and drop them in this area, hoping that some of the seeds may sprout…but if the wildlife gets them first, then so be it.
The perennial gardens that are closer to the house are cleared, however, because I want a neater look in these areas. I want the weeds that have germinated in the last three months to be gone. Yesterday I cleaned the entry garden, and later this week will cut the asters down from the lakeside border. Come April, I should have a clear shot at mulching without having to remove old plants, or weed first.
The wonderful thing about gardening methods is that there are many ways to do things, and I’m free to change my mind at any point. Perhaps next year I’ll decide that Jo Ellen was right.
What I am ultimately aiming for, in and out of the garden, is the flexibility to try different things and consider other points of view. I’ve learned that for us humans, this may not be as easy as it sounds.
One of the talks I present to horticultural gatherings is called Myths, Lies, And All The Latest Dirt. In it, I debunk some of the beliefs we all learned as young gardeners. “Moss in the lawn means you need to lime,” and the like.
There are some in the audience whose eyes light up when I discredit some long-held belief, and many laugh with pleasure to learn that there are long-practiced tasks that they don’t have to do. But there are always a few whose mouths turn down with displeasure. It seems that some people would rather not learn that there’s a different way or new understanding.
I say blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape.
Maybe I’ll leave the asters standing in the lakeside garden after all.