Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Organizing Chaos

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows that chaos rules in the gardens high on the low spot of a North Carolina mountain top. There is no budget and no staff for the ever expanding gardens now aiming for three acres of semi-cultivation. It is tended by gardeners with big appetites and an appreciation for a wide array of botanical personalities both nursery bought and those of wilder origins.

And when the lush gets going, well it just grows faster than the gardeners with so much land in semi-cultivation and not enough time can get to.

The Renegade Gardener had second thoughts over Garden Rant's manifesto item "In love with real, rambling, chaotic, dirty, bug-ridden gardens", feeling that gardening well mattered more. Susan then wanted to know what do gardeners really think about "real, rambling, chaotic, dirty, bug-ridden" versus "perfect magazine" gardens, particularly the chaos part?

Let me just say that when that's what you got, when the site and the situation both lean towards chaos, well you learn to live with it. Sometimes grudgingly and sometimes in utter amazement at what astounding design and beauty nature is capable of in the guise of chaos.

The gardeners keep at it. Planting and planting some more in the hopes the chaos will subside when the plants fill in. Weeding and weeding and weeding in a vain attempt to keep the lush at bay and give the plants a chance to fill in. The gardeners are only vaguely aware that in many not so subtle ways their large appetites contribute to the chaos.

But what does "gardening well" really mean. Is this a design competition or is this about the plants? When over 90% of plants planted, seeds scattered and bulbs buried survive, thrive and multiply under the watchful eye of the gardener does that count as gardening well even if chaos constantly attempts to fill any void?

My designer self saw what I was up against in this setting and my maintenance gardener self keeps saying the only way to beat the chaos is by winning the lottery. Chances of that are slim. I want someone else to buy the tickets and give me the jackpot.

So not only am I constantly being taught to live with chaos by a power greater than me, I am learning how to design organized chaos that will blend right in with the natural surroundings.

Am I gardening well yet? A good part of this chaos was well thought out. I planted it to look like this. How many people passing by will know this is not wild lush, it is gardener designed lush? A few have known or knew something was different about this spot alongside the road because they stopped. They got out of their cars and they took all kinds of pictures. This was no ordinary chaos.

When I need order I have a place to go. It is small by comparison to the great expanse around. It is completely surrounded on all sides by exuberant chaos enhanced by gardeners with large appetites. Wild chaos would not be as species rich. Wild chaos would not bloom over such a long period of time.

How does a gardener take a roadside weed like Chicory and arrange it so that cars actually come to a stop?

Am I gardening well yet? It's hard to tell with all this chaos.


Lola said...

It may be chaos but it looks great. Nature has a way of taking care of it all. We were put here to help nature not control it.
Your garden is solace & looks like it will provide greatly.
The heat here has attacked everything. We need rain too.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

You bet you are gardening well. Miriam Osler has a whole book written about chaos. It is _A Gentle Plea For Chaos_. One of my favorites. Everyone should design with some chaos in mind to my way of thinking.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you and your mom garden well. I think it's all in how you as a gardener define "gardening well."

Layanee said...

Controlled chaos is what it is all about. The hand of the gardener must be somewhat visible. Love your gardens and your cozy cottage.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all the other commenters. Part of maturing as a gardener is learning to live within your site and to be happy with what you can accomplish. i don't think your site would lend itself to a formal garden, for instance. In my dry woodland I have had to learn to work within the limitations and enjoy what i can do. Personally, I think your 'lush' is beautiful. I do know some gardeners who would beat their heads against the wall till they were bloody trying to control it -but for what purpose?


Barry said...

I see more organized chaos than chaotic organization. Case in point, your volunteer sunflowers have resumed their upright stance amonst the other veggies. Good for them, and even better for you. Chris, you be one akamai gardener.

Lola said...

Oh boy, showers are going on, just don't like the lightening. Thunder I don't mind. This should help the gardens a lot {and my pocket book}. lol

James Golden said...

I admire what you're doing. "Design organized chaos" you say. I say, YES. (I just wonder why the deer haven't eaten all those hostas.)

Christopher C. NC said...

Lola most of it looks great. The part that makes me crazy is where the Virgin's Bower vine is taking over and smothering good stuff.

Lisa you mentioned that book before. I should get it and read it. Writing it down now.

Sallysmom I think that definition depends upon what day you ask the two gardeners up here. It fluctuates wildly.

Layanee there is no denying I like exuberance in a garden. When things get to too clipped and manicured it starts to get dull.

Bev it is difficult to imagine anything but a very naturalistic garden fitting in with this forest setting, yet I bloody myself almost daily now for folks who pay me to control it. I think in many cases that wide stretch of lawn or mowed pasture makes a more regular garden fit in.

Pomaika'i, chaotic organization does sound like a bad thing. I am an organized type though so even in my chaos some order should show through.

Lola I hope you are getting some of our rain now and it will pass us by for a few days. Enough already.

James the vast forest setting with very little pasture close by is not the best habitat for deer so we don't have many and up here they only know their wild food plants.

Siria said...

Hi Christopher!
I'd say you are gardening very well!!! Call it what you is gorgeous in your mountaintop gardens.

Patios clotures said...

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