November 13, 2010

My Exotic Garden

Bernie at Bush Bernie's Garden Blog left me a comment on one of last month's posts that has been on my mind ever since.

She was admiring the October colors in my garden.  Bernie lives in northern Australia and her climate is tropical.  Her other blog is My Dry Tropics Garden.  I read both her blogs regularly and I love her writing and garden designs and observations and photos.  A visit to her blogs is always a treat.  I leave comments about how beautiful it is or how the composition looks or how I enjoy seeing her part of the world. 

But I am always at a loss to comment about the specific plants in her photos.  I simply don't know what many of them are and have never heard of the names of most of them.  I am in awe of the beauty she shows us, especially the close ups and plant descriptions but they are all foreign and exotic to me.
Planchonia careya, Cocky Apple, with permission from Bush Bernie's Garden Blog
Here's what has been on my mind: part of her comment on my October post was: "....the colours!! Dogwoods, Amsonia, Viburnum, Maple, Hamamelis ... these are all plants that I don't have any experience with and their colours are beautiful."

When I saw that my reaction was "but those plants are staples of the garden. What do you mean? --- Viburnums and Dogwoods are the norm, Maples are absolutely everywhere, and Amsonias and Hamamelis are so common, not like your exotics."
Um.... not like your exotics?  Is it possible that plants so common and everyday to me are curious to her?  A viburnum glamorous and peculiar?  A dogwood strange and wondrous?  Can that be?  These are just the usual workhorse plants in everyone's garden around here.
Some of the the now exotic looking standard stuff in my garden
It kind of alarmed me how ego-centric my thoughts about the garden were.  My plants, my climate, my seasons are the "standard".  All others are deviations in my insular gardening view.  When I think "winter" it's cold and sometimes snowy.  When I think "July" I have scenes of the height of summer.  To think otherwise in my little world is "reversed".  Hmmm.

If I google "winter scenes" I get pictures of snow and northern hemisphere conifers.  Does Bernie get that too even though she is sitting at her computer in her Queenslander cottage, googling from the tropics?  Or does the recognize that her norm is different?
Wait, norms can be different?  Normal is ... standard.  What's not normal is "different".  Now I'm off into issues of relative worldviews and identity concepts.  Urk.

But when these issues are as visual and earthy as they are when we look at each others' gardens, it's much more immediate.  What is strange looking?  Whose garden is exotic?  All are beautiful in their own ways, and the commonest plants somewhere are bewildering to gardeners somewhere else.

This makes my head hurt.  I am going out into the garden now to check my newly alien looking autumn Viburnums for deer damage.

I hope Bernie, a day and a season ahead of me, has already gone out in her garden to look at her common spring Ixoras to make sure the wallabies haven't been at them.

I love garden blogging.


  1. What all this head hurting thought says to me is that we shouldn't take anything for granted especially our normal ole plants.

  2. Oh, Laurrie, I love this post! Brilliant re-examination of our "standard" plants and what exotic really means. :) Plus, your photos are gorgeous. And even though dogwoods & viburnums & maples are "standard" to me, too, I wouldn't wish myself anywhere else in the world in this season when every leaf is as lovely as a flower.

  3. Now see ... that fabulous mosaic of yours has me drooling again! All that fabulous colour ... not at all 'common'. It's just fabulous.

    I, of course, get bored looking at Hibiscus and Ixora blooms and Gerberas!! It's inevitable, I suppose, that what we see everyday out in our gardens does get a little boring to our eyes.

    A great post, Laurrie ... the common plants are indeed beautiful in their own way and we all need to view them with a fresh perspective. Our world has enough beauty for all... and I love how the blogging world means we can share that beauty and see it appreciated by others.

  4. Nice post.

    One of the best things for me, gardening in the Northeast, is that I experience a 'real' autumn and real winter. In South Africa, which has a diverse climactic range with cold in the middle, and temperate around the edges, our autumns and winters were much more gentle. I love the colours of fall, here.

    Then again, winter in Cape Town means fields and fields of arum (white calla) lilies in bloom :-)

  5. Lisa, this really did make me take a new look at the old standard things in my garden!

    Meredith, thanks so much. I love the fall season partly because it photographs so well. Fall in New England is a miracle.

    Bernie, thanks for being the inspiration for this post, and for making me take a new look at everything around me.

    Marie, it's great that as a transplant you appreciate the seasons here! How do you keep all of the plants and names and pictures of flora from two distinct continents straight? That's a lot to know and i.d.

  6. Ha! In reading Bernie's comment above I find that I'm more familiar with the plants she lists than those that you've listed in your post! Everything is, indeed, relative!

    I went scouting today for fall foliage and it's still somewhat hard to come by in Austin. I'll post about it on Tuesday and am hoping that everyone is not "autumned" out by now! Everyone else started posting their gorgeous foliage well over a month ago!

  7. Gorgeous mosaic. I don't think of the staples as strange and peculiar, but always glamorous and wondrous!

  8. Whimsical Gardener, I know what you mean... in spring I see so many southern garden blogs featuring early spring bulbs that I don't want to post anything when my daffodils finally come up!

    sweetbay, I have had to learn to step back and look at the glamorous in the everyday!


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