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When the Garden Leads

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 30 August 2002

Gardening seems to me like a conversation between the gardener and the garden — or a dance. Until recently, I was firmly leading, and asking the garden to follow. But these days, I just don't have the energy I used to. So I'm trying to let the garden lead.

For example every spring some animal rolls in my Nepeta mussini. Though it's a relative of catnip, it's not supposed to attract cats: in fact, a friend saw rabbits in his! The two-foot stems start out standing tall, so the plant looks full and bushy, covered with its clouds of tiny blue flowers. When the stems get flattened, the center looks brown and bare.

In past years I have tried 1) cutting back the nepeta: it looks even worse for a couple of weeks, and then fills in bushy ... or 2) lifting the stems back up and holding them with a little wire fence, which quickly gets covered as the stems flop down over it. But this year I just looked at that bare center a lot. And recently I noticed: the plant has put up new growth in the center, with new flower buds — and so not only is the brown bare spot gone, but also the lovely blue haze will go on longer.

When I planted peach and pale yellow and deep red daylilies next to some asters, I thought "these will look great with the blue of the asters." Two problems: the asters bloom so late most of the lilies have gone, and I was forgetting that these asters are pink! I also planted a couple of balloon flowers there because it was the only place I could find room. For a few years I've been failing to deadhead the balloon flowers, and they've been enthusiastically self-seeding. This year there are enough, wandering around the daylilies, that their bright blue provides just the contrast I once thought I'd arranged with the asters.

When I planted a rose to grow on the arched arbor at the entrance to one garden, I chose 'William Baffin' because it's vigorous. Now the two bushes are ten feet tall, and sending up new shoots five feet from the arbor. Instead of digging up the offshoots any more, I think I'm going to let this rose take the lead. It may mean the that the arbor becomes a doorway through a wall of roses that covers the whole front of the garden!

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© Copyright 2002 Catherine Holmes Clark