When planning for the 2021 growing season, your goal should be to make gardening simpler and easier. One way to do that is to let nature take its course. It was OK to formalize your garden when you had all the pain-free energy in the world. But now that you have to budget that energy, let Mother Nature help. And Mother Nature will only help if you do it her way.
I’ll bet Mother Nature isn’t as fussy as you are about how straight the rows are. Or whether plants are growing there that you didn’t plant. Call them weeds or call them volunteers, you didn’t plant them. Unless they’re noxious weeds or aggressively invasive, let them grow for a season. If you absolutely can’t live with your new plants, you can muster some help next season to pull them out. Keep in mind that these new plants cost you nothing in time or money.
Your garden doesn’t have to resemble the Palace of Versailles to look nice and draw compliments. In fact, formal gardens are out of vogue these days. The more natural look is in style. If you take a walk in the woods and the trees are all in straight lines, that forest was planted by humans. In a natural forest, seeds germinate where they drop. Although some gardeners would refer to that as messy, I like to refer to it as random planting.
My back yard has a hill with a plateau, a line of trees separating me from a cornfield, which doubles as a favorite goose hunting site for my neighbors and others who follow the flock (or more precisely, the gaggle). When the house was built, I had the builder grade the hill to be landscaped but left the plateau and line of trees natural.
The photo below was taken shortly after the hill was landscaped. Each year, for the first 10 years or so, I diligently weeded and trimmed the shrubs. It was planted mostly in juniper and Korean lilacs with a false cypress for accent on one side. A couple of potentilla take the eye across the rock drainage swale to a row of potentilla forming a screen near the lot line. We did the same thing with ornamental grass on the other side.
After the first decade, my knee made climbing and working on the hill difficult. Besides, the row of junipers midway up the hill had formed a wall so nothing except the Korean lilacs were visible above the junipers. That led to my weeding only below the line of junipers. Today, my gardener weeds only the little area between the plants and the swale, and he removes some vines growing there. Quite frankly, I prefer the natural look in the top photo.
This is just one example of naturalization. Originally, a line of spirea followed the curvature of the sidewalk but they overgrew the sidewalk every summer and had to be cut back. They’ve since been replaced by a row of compact boxwoods. Don’t be afraid to replace plants that don’t behave and require more work than you want to give them.
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