Lessons from the garden

Published 7:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2017

There is always something to do at our house.  I don’t know how in the world anyone could ever get bored.  Maybe I’m fortunate because I really love a new project, and get excited about things that others may consider mundane. 

I have been studying the beds in front of our house and watching “This Old House” and other gardening shows to get ideas.  What once probably looked striking and perfect for the space has long since morphed into the neighborhood jungle.  In reality, it was very neatly manicured when we bought our home, but it looked a little unwelcoming to me.

Mike and I quickly discovered that we didn’t care for the formal look for more than one reason.  I’m sure the fact that we would have to trim and shape hedges every few weeks to keep them in the proper proportion for the garden impacted our decision to go for a more natural look.

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But natural can only go so far.  After a while the garden looked like a heavily bearded man who refused to shave for a few years.  Scraggly, unkept, and unloved are a few words that come to mind to describe our once perfectly manicured space.  The house was almost totally obscured by a wild mass of vegetation.

Today, my friend and helper, David, started to toil on the jungle.  We walked around the area and talked the project over. 

I have consumed enough HGTV to know that we could either create a huge improvement or an equally huge mess.  We decided the best approach was to cut the overgrown azaleas totally down. 

This mass cutting opened the area so the architecture of the house could be seen.  We discovered that the ornamental grasses, camellias, miniature variegated gardenias, and crepe myrtles that had been virtually swallowed up by the unruly azaleas now appeared to be ideal for the landscape.

Out decision to go bold instead of just trimming the huge plants turned out to be wonderful.  I thought and thought about the project, but finally went with my gut instinct and couldn’t be happier with the results.

That’s the way things often work out.  If I take the time to think things over and just go with my gut I’m usually pretty happy.  This being said, I will confess that I have made several mistakes along the way.  None of us get it right every time, but that’s part of the fun, really.

Plants are like people.  Some bloom beautifully with very little attention even in the poorest conditions.  Others need almost constant care to coax any sort of beauty from them whatsoever.  The azaleas, although gorgeous for their short blooming period, were literally choking out all the other lovely plants. 

They may sprout up again next year, but with this serious pruning they will be more manageable. If need be, we can just dig up the roots.  My son, Robby, always laughs when I say “we”.  He tells a sad tale about getting up very early one Saturday morning when all his friends were sleeping to help with flowerbeds. 

When I see my three hard working grown children I believe they learned more from those mornings in the garden than they may realize.    

By Jan Penton Miller