Advice from a master gardner: Garden watching

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Last week my husband and I were on our way to our son’s home in New Orleans. We had just left church and my husband was driving.

I slipped off my “Sunday” shoes and briefly scanned the church bulletin for the weekly announcements. After a few minutes, I laid the bulletin in my lap as I turned my attention out the window and to one of my favorite pastimes while riding in a car; garden watching. Whether my husband and I are traveling down winding country roads or busy city streets, I can always entertain myself by seeing what people have growing in their yards. The landscaping themes range from disastrous to extraordinary, sometimes within a city block, providing no end of entertainment for a gardening enthusiast.

The reason I’m so interested is that I know so little, and I am yet again replanting my front garden bed. Last spring’s great ideas have become this summer’s proven losers. So once more it’s out with the old and in with the new.

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One thing I’ve learned from my hours of watching the plants roll by is that gardens vary as much as their owners. There are the high-end, perfectly manicured gardens, which are more likely the result of a professional landscape design and the blood, sweat and tears of a paid gardener. On the other end of the spectrum are homes where there are no plants or shrubbery, just grass.

Homes where I assume people live who are struggling to make ends meet and a garden by necessity remains low on their list of priorities.

In between is a whole range of gardens, which is where most of us lie. We do our own planning, planting, weeding, raking and watering. Some of us are more knowledgeable and gifted than others but we all share the love of creating something beautiful from a tiny seed or sapling. We don’t mind hard work or getting dirty.

While we roll along, I try to name the plants I see and then to understand why a certain plant does well in one spot but so poorly in another. How are the conditions different? How much sun is there? Is the plant located near a downspout so that it gets a lot of water or in a drier spot.

The more questions I have, the more I wonder, but one thing is certain, I don’t have any boring drives. See part two in next week’s Item.

By Liz Flynt

MSU Pearl River County Extension Service Master Gardener