Saturday, April 11, 2009

Foggy Gardens

Underneath the wildness, a rambling cultivated garden exists. This garden is easiest to see in the spring as the daffodils, many minor bulbs, iris, daylilies, peonies, hosta, astilbe, lilies and countless other cultivated perennial flowers begin to emerge. The shrubs stand out with their height and bulk while the other inhabitants of the garden are still close to the ground.

The native perennial wild flowers that share the garden are also just beginning to emerge. They have not yet gained the stature they will gather over the coming months. Even after strong gale force winds, snow and rain and more wind and snow and rain and then some more, many of the dried stalks of the tough native perennials remain standing. The woody stems of aster, ageratina and goldenrod stand tall and lay flat, thoroughly intermingled in the cultivated garden.

The forest overhead has made its own woody contribution. Small sticks to large branches are constantly shed from the breezy canopy above. They do not care where they fall.

A rambling cultivated garden exists in a waving sea and tangled mat of brown sticks.

As the days grew longer and the evening strolls more frequent to watch the annual Bulbapaloozathon unfold, I gathered sticks. I took pictures and gathered sticks and the Spots sniffed, explored, watched and followed. I snapped off dry stalks that were still attached to the base of perennials and gathered up branches and stems deposited from the trees above.

A few minutes here, a couple of hours there, dried stalks and dead sticks were piled up and carted away. Slowly the real rambling cultivated garden began to emerge in ever more detail and clarity. The garden looked to be expanding as areas that may not have been cleaned in some time revealed hidden bulbs that had been planted and escaped attention, retreating into the wildness. The shrubs gain a clean dignity as intertwined debris is removed.

The long time maintenance gardener in me struggles with letting the wild things have free run of the place. I do not have the patience needed to let all those dead brown stalks slowly decompose in place, even knowing in a few short months the wild green will have swallowed what was left of the winter dead and brown.

This is not my garden. I do not get the deciding vote on how things should be. I wonder though if a certain acceptance of disarray comes with a gardeners advancing age and dwindling flexibility. There is a hillside of beautiful blooming things of every kind. A few brown sticks can't eliminate that fact. A rambling cultivated garden exists here.

I pick up dried stalks and dead brown sticks while I can. Confident that it will be appreciated, that there won't be any concern that I have ruined the garden and robbed it of its wildness.


Anonymous said...

Hi Christopher~~ Even those of us who cultivate more urban landscapes I think to some extent delude ourselves. So much is out of our control.

Your Foggy Garden is beautiful in its simplicity. As I studied the photos, I kept thinking about donning my coat, boots and gloves to go for a stroll.

Siria said...

This rambling cultivated garden in the midst of a forest and on top of a mountain is absolutely beautiful. I have to imagine that Bulbarella appreciates very much the attention to detail that you have added! Your pictures are just beautiful.

Christopher C. NC said...

Grace, it is so true. No matter where you garden it is all just a temporary illusion of control. Granted a quarter acre suburban plot is easier to create that illusion than a garden approaching 2 acres of cultivated wilderness.

Siria, I am trying to earn my keep. If they like my work they might keep me around.

Frances said...

Yes, acceptance of the less than perfect. It is coming sooner here too, intentionally leaving things alone to see what happens. Trying to preserve strength and time to tend a large garden in a way that optimizes both. The foggy gardens of cultivated and wildflowers are looking magical, with a little help from a neatnik son.