When we bought our house three years ago, one of the major selling points was a screened porch looking into a yard full of flower beds. I had absolutely no gardening experience, and I failed to notice until later that all the luscious green was really a tangle of invasive vines covering a hodgepodge of standard builders’ landscaping and pricey ornamentals.
We hacked, pulled and chipped for days in Tennessee’s thick August heat. Along the way, we ripped up a scourge of bamboo roots; cut the morning glory vines off the Chinese wisteria, then cut the wisteria back to manageable proportions; and even tossed out a willow tree left to die in its Home Depot pot. We discovered a dogwood and a Cleveland pear we hadn’t been able to see, and we rolled the dice on a saucer magnolia we weren’t sure was alive or not. Finally, we were able to start over. And that’s what I did – with a passion and recklessness matched only by the preceding demolition.
The result is another hodgepodge, but a lovely one.
During the demolition, we uncovered a great many plants we decided to keep. Some we noticed right away, such as the stand of white calla lilies that have become my favorites. Others surprised us later, like the giant orange day lilies that grew as tall as the dogwood that next spring. Everything I uncovered inspired me to plant something else, and in the first year I must have ended up on every mail order plant catalog under the sun.
The most wonderful gift has been my own ironic reaction to this: Instead of taking care to not repeat the crazy chaos that lead me to gardening in the first place, I’ve embraced it. I’ve seen amazing gardens that separate bulb beds from perennial beds from herbs, then sprinkle colorful annuals throughout. But that’s not me. I throw them all together (careful not to slash my spade through rhizomes and tender roots) and wait patiently for something to surprise me. Right now, there are naturalized crocuses shooting up through coral bells, daffodils weaving around rose bushes and winterberry, and the beginnings of tulip tips and iris fans popping up among giant stands of lavender recovering from the winter.
Sometimes in other parts of my life, I’ll wonder why I’ve done something a certain way. Then I take a walk around my garden and it clicks. As long as you tend to it with care, the crazy patchwork works.