Thursday, June 12, 2014

First Bloom - Thoughts on Gardening

I started my first garden in 2009, soon after my husband and I bought our first house (and after many years of moving from one urban apartment to the next).  That garden was strictly devoted to growing edible plants and was heavily influenced by my favorite food advocates and gardening writers at the time - namely Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Waters, Michael Pollen and Eliot Coleman.  It was a productive garden, one that took me back to those early childhood memories of growing up in Philadelphia  and being with my father in our humble little urban vegetable patch.  Yet that first garden of mine always felt somehow incomplete and halfhearted.  I'd forgotten that my father was a great lover of flowering plants as well and that half of our garden was devoted to growing colorful ornamentals like petunias, marigolds, impatiens, coleus and my favorite of all, dahlias.  Maybe it's a sign that I'm maturing as a gardener, but when we moved back to Massachusetts and were in the market for a new home, I was adamant about doing things differently this time around.  I wanted our garden to be just as beautiful as it was productive.  I wanted not only taste and nourishment, but also color and scent.  I wanted a proper cottage garden.

Admittedly, I've spent more time these past twelve months thinking about flowers then I have about vegetables (mainly because I've had so little experience growing them).  There's just so much to learn and I still feel as though I've only cracked the surface of it all.  In many ways, this experience has opened my eyes to a how vast and challenging a passion like gardening can be.  There's always something new to learn and many more plants to discover.  But at the same time, it's really about the process and finding those aspects of gardening that really appeal to you.  Otherwise, it can become quite overwhelming.  For instance, based on my childhood memories, my father was a great lover of showy vibrant bedding plants.  I, on the other hand, find myself more attracted to traditional cottage garden plants, particularly those that still resemble their wild cousins in many ways and can grow with a minimum of care.  While I want my garden to be colorful, I also want it to be serene - a place that invokes a particular mood based on the season.  Ultimately that is what I'll be working towards in the coming years.

But today represents another milestone in a way.  Earlier this year, I must have started at least a couple thousand flowering plants from seed, most of which are perennials.  As many of you are aware, many perennials don't flower the first year, so starting them from seed can require a great deal of patience.  However, some do.  And my newly-planted cottage garden saw its first perennial bloom today - in this case, a rather demure yet graceful white dianthus. A lot of planning and hard work has gone into our garden thus far and we're getting started.  However, I'm really looking forward to all of the future flowers that will surely follow this one. 

6 comments:

  1. Scented flowers are my favorite. Many of the ones I grow have a scent. Though my emphasis is on the vegetables, I don't think it would be my garden without any flowers at all. I like the garden to be a treat for all the senses, not just the taste buds. And dianthus is such a wonderful cottage garden plant. Beautiful, scented, and edible.

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  2. As I was reading this post, all I was thinking is that I feel exactly the same way. My main focus has always been on edible gardening, but I love ornamentals as well and cottage gardens are my absolute favourite. I can't wait until I have the time to dig into (literally!) this aspect of my garden. This was a wonderful post, Thomas. And congratulations on the dianthus - it is beautiful!

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    1. Thanks Margaret! Hopefully you'll be able to start your own cottage garden soon.

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  3. You've got me thinking about all my past gardens. It all started with a vegetable garden in my parents backyard. Each new living situation imposed its limitations on my garden. Like you I lived in urban apartments where gardening was something I could just dream about. I had a tree choked suburban garden that dictated shade loving plants that pretty much excluded edibles. My perpetual goal was to have a garden that I could grow vegetables in year round. I've wrenched that out of my current situation, but ornamental plantings are still a challenge - I'm limited by crappy soil, a crappy irrigation system that needs a total overhaul, gophers, deer.... But I'm totally loving my veggie garden, my slice of heaven.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Michelle. It's amazing how many of us got interested in gardening because of our parents. Hopefully my son will get bitten by the gardening bug when he gets older.

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