December 19, 2010

More than a Flowerbed

I built a dry creek bed entirely from rocks I dug from planting holes
I met a woman last summer who was a gardener and a published author.  We had a nice chat about plants and writing.  When she found out I had a gardening blog she was curious and asked me about it.

It doesn't take much for me to start blabbing on about the world of blogging, but she confused me when she asked "what do you blog about in winter?"

"I write about my garden in the winter too".

She looked really skeptical.  "But what can you post then?  What is there to write about?"

It dawned on me then that to her a garden was a flowerbed.  It was only interesting in bloom.  The only thing to write about was which flower had just opened, with a close up of the blossom.

Building homes is part of gardening
Have you had that happen?  Have you identified yourself as a gardener, and had people ask "oh, do you grow flowers or do you have vegetables?"

I don't grow vegetables, and the few herbaceous perennials I have are tucked in among shrubs and groundcovers and trees and vines and hardscape.  I'm not a flower gardener, but I can't call myself a landscaper... that's a term reserved for a crew with machines or for designers who get paid.

What do you call yourself if you tend woody plants, reforest a hillside, build a dry creek bed, manage a hundred tree saplings, haul compost, bushwhack a wild meadow, and make safe homes for fairy spirits, but you do it for enjoyment and you do it without power machinery?

I do have some flowers in my garden
Is it still gardening if you are clinging to a ladder in winter pruning a young maple canopy with your loppers?  Are you gardening when you clear brush?  Do you even have a garden if it consists entirely of a spirea, caryopteris, ceanothus, a young stewartia, a conifer and a low groundcover deutzia --- without a hosta or blooming daylily anywhere?

Thank god for garden bloggers.  You all know. 

But how do you describe to new acquaintances what you do?  Especially if the new acquaintance is a non-fiction writer and a little um, ... literal?

I'm no landscaper.  I'm certainly not a trained arborist.  But my garden is so much more than a flowerbed.

C'mon all of you with imaginations.  What is it we do?  Garden?  Yarden?  Arborize?


  1. Such a great point, Laurrie. I regard myself more as a garden caretaker! I tender and help things to grow. The term 'gardener', to me, relates to people who've a fabulous garden as a result of all their labours and vision.

    Looking at your photos of that fabulous dry creek garden bed and the view over your lawn area, I think you can proudly call yourself a gardener!

    I'd like to wish you a fabulous festive season ... have a good one!

  2. I've had trouble with this one too. I use the term gardener loosely but it includes a vegetable garden, apple orchard, tree planting, wild meadow (okay, unmowed lawn), some perennials. I think we need to broaden the definition of gardener instead of thinking about just pretty flowers.

  3. Funny that you post this topic today. Last week a person visited our house and said he heard I was a gardener. As he looked out of three walls of windows at multiple perennial and herb beds he actually asked where my garden was? I thought he was kidding, but he was looking for a vegetable garden - mine is currently in limbo waiting for a spring re-do. I guess a garden is in the eye of the beholder.

    I describe myself first as a gardener, though I'm a garden coach, personal gardener, contract gardener, garden designer, garden writer, and garden blogger. However, I see all growing plant material as a garden. Even houseplants are mini gardens.

  4. Bernie, thanks so much. I do consider myself a gardener, although I feel I have to explain it somehow.

    Marguerite, with your orchard and acres and undeveloped space, you certainly are more than a flower gardener!

    Joene, how did you resist bopping your visitor on the head when he asked where the garden was?? harrumph.

  5. It's taken me 20+ years of gardening to call myself a gardener! We are gardeners when we tend, nurture, create, toil, sweat, cajole, beg, plead, smile, delight, curse, marvel, get the idea ;-) whether it's one tiny potted plant on the balcony or acres of well tended plants or anything in between! We should stand up and say it proudly, I'm a gardener!!! I too am so thankful for the garden blogging friends I've found who "get it"!

    Your dry creek bed is beautiful, btw!

  6. Cat, thanks! And I'm happy to hear from another garden blogger who "gets it"!

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  8. I really like your term "arborize". :)

    I haven't called myself a gardener yet out loud. For all the reasons you mention. I just say I am "into" gardening. lol. But in my heart, I am a gardener.

  9. Almost everyone that I tell that I am a gardener they ask what kind of vegetables I grow. When I say none they look at me like I have two heads. I might try an occasional row of lettuce in the spring or a tomato in a pot now and then but that doesn't make me a gardener. I am busy most of the time trying to figure out where to cram another perennial, shrub or tree on my little 1/4acre city lot. Then of course cursing weeds and chasing feral cats out of the garden keeps me pretty busy otherwise.

  10. Garden Ms. S, I think you should say it out loud!

    Lisa, you sound like a real gardener to me, vegetables or no...

  11. I like yardenize. That's a good one.

    Garden, landscape, landscape, garden... What's the difference? That's how I look at it anyway.

    I don't try to describe what I do. It's too much effort. That's why I have a blog. :)

  12. I love your dry creek bed, Laurrie! Gardening is such an all-encompassing term that I think it's hard to define, especially to non-gardeners. I've grown vegetables for years, but I never thought of myself as a gardener when that was all I grew. I think gardening is more of a spiritual thing, working with nature to create your own place of beauty.

  13. Sweetbay, Labels can be tricky! You're right, that's why a blog with pictures is so much better.

    Rose, thanks! I like bringing the spiritual definition into gardening; it really is that too.


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