When I bought my house twenty years ago, one of the things I loved most was the little perennial garden that ran along the driveway from the front steps to the side. It had been professionally designed and planted and the owners left me the garden schematic beautifully plotted out on parchment-thin paper, shaded with soft penciled colors. That first summer I watched and waited and didn’t make many changes. I had hostas and needle leaf coreopsis and Russian sage and cranesbill.
But after that I got brave. (Brave for me, that is!) I made a trip to the garden market every spring and chose maybe one or two new perennials. Because I have a notorious brown thumb, many didn’t survive. But I managed to coax along some balloon flowers, stargazer lilies, sedum, and black-eyed Susans. My Shasta daisies were stunted by earwigs and every chrysanthemum I planted lasted only a season or two. It was trial and error, with the tendency towards error.
I’m a cautious gardener, you see. I like order–not necessarily rows–and my garden is pleasant and neat… but rather tame.
This spring my husband decided to start gardening himself by growing a few annuals from seed. (I always supplement my perennials with potted annuals: marigolds, petunias, geraniums, etc.) Then I asked for a salad bowl–you know, those potted mixes of tiny romaine and leaf lettuces, some baby kale–so I could have salad at the ready. He thought he might try some perennials, just because. The result was three portable greenhouse units crammed with flats and seedlings, moved from window to window, inside to outside. I’ll admit the chaos was a bit alarming for me, someone who loves order and plants methodically.
Now you must also know that B is an all or nothing type of guy. He lives large, takes risks. Doesn’t always plan, but lets life unfold. He’s reaped a lot of highs (and lows) with this approach to life. His garden just sort of happened and there’s nothing small scale about it.
B gardens with abandon and I’ve come to love the beauty in what I once saw as disarray. There’s a lush jungle of pots upon pots on our deck and riots of roses and morning glories along the fence. He started a meadow a few years back and this year it has come into its own–a tiny patch of intentional wilderness right in our yard, complete with a grotto of phlox for my Blessed Virgin.
I still putz in my side garden, swapping out plants occasionally, dead-heading when I remember, and filling in spaces when I get some inspiration. It’s nice.
But B’s garden space is a tangle of color, exploding with annuals and perennials. It’s gorgeous.
And my heart is richer for it.