April 19, 2011

Interview - Part Two

R: We're back with the second installment of our interview with a Connecticut gardener.  You can read a transcript of the first part here.  This time we are out of the studio, on a visit to the garden itself.  Tell me, what is this shrub here with the funny bottlebrushes on it?  They smell like honey.

Me: That was a Hydrangea serrata but now it is a Fothergilla gardenii.

R: Really?  Plants can change into completely different plants?

Me: Yes.  Not naturally, but if I move them. The hydrangea that was in this spot languished.  It was too sunny and dry here.  So I moved it and put in a fothergilla, which likes it better here.  Almost every plant in my garden is sitting in a spot where some other plant was before it.

R: Why move plants around so much?  Doesn't that set them back or hurt them?

Me: Heavens, no.  I only plant things that can be moved three times and thrive. 

R: Why three times?

Me: The first spot is always where I want that particular plant to grow, despite the plant's own needs and the culture info on the tag.  The second location is where the plant itself is happier.  The third spot is usually a whim, when I'm doing radical garden redesign without a plan.

R: While we are walking around, show us which plants are your favorites.

Me: I don't have favorite plants --- individual plants by themselves are not interesting.  It's how they combine with others that make me go "wow".  This is a favorite spring combination of 'Oklahoma' redbud, the fothergilla I just mentioned, and some spruces, with a climbing hydrangea in front. This was from last spring, and it still delights me:

And this fall combination of amsonia and Himalayan fleeceflower nestled under a doublefile viburnum is a favorite:

Even a simple corner of the garden with creeping thyme, roses and grasses can wow on a summer morning when they are together:

I have favorite mixes of forms and shapes too, not just colors.  Like this combination at the bend of the walk:

I could go on.

R: That's okay.  I get it.  Show us the first thing you ever planted, the very beginning of your garden six years ago.

Me: I can't.  I killed it and most of the other things I planted at first.  For a while I kept a plant graveyard, with all the tags of all the deceased plants stuck in the ground.  But after a while it looked ghoulish and it was taking up too much room.  Now the compost pile is all I can show you of most of my beginning efforts.

R: Why do you have a rusted sign here in the border?
Me: I need to be reminded.

R: Thank you for this tour of your gardens.

Me:  My pleasure.  Come back next season, it will all look different.


  1. Truth in gardening: "The first spot is always where I want that particular plant to grow, despite the plant's own needs and the culture info on the tag. The second location is where the plant itself is happier. The third spot is usually a whim, when I'm doing radical garden redesign without a plan."

    The list of killed plants. It is best to let them go. Sigh.

  2. Moving plants multiple times must be a trait of obsessed gardeners. Nearly every one of these I know, or know of, including myself has done the same. On-paper vision is so much different than in-the-ground vision. I think I need one of those 'relax' signs.

  3. Ha, I like your hydrangea that turned into a fothergilla:) I should take your advice, Laurrie, and do some moving around to create better combinations. I usually move plants only when they've outgrown their areas or need to be divided. I like your attitude about admiring single plants--it really is the whole effect that matters, and you have created some beautiful vistas in your garden.

  4. I really enjoyed your humorous interview. So many truisms too. Your moving them around ending up with some really nice results. And next year it will be all different!

  5. I enjoyed your interview. It is good to be reminded that I am not the only person that moves plants several times before they are left to grow in peace.

  6. Hi Laurrie, I am glad that I am not the only one who is constantly moving/killing plants!

  7. I love the comment that a plant needs to be able to live through at least 3 moves. Three cheers to that!

  8. Gardener on Sherlock, I did bemoan all my failures and killed plants at first, but now I shrug and say "time to replace it with something else".

    Joene, I find it hard too... design on paper never comes out like I envision. I have to plant, move, plant and move.

    Rose, Thanks. I enjoy the whole picture so much more than any one plant or any one bloom, so "beautiful vistas" are what I'm aiming for.

    Donna, I always want to reach the point where it's all finished and just right. But then the next year comes and I am changing everything again.

    Lisa, I think I am in good company with so many experienced gardeners telling me how much they move plants around.

    Jennifer, We all experiment, all the time! Mostly the plants are adaptable, thank goodness.

    Marguerite, I heard that comment about three moves initially from my friend in Kentucky and it has stayed with me. And her gardens survive her moves too.

  9. I'm glad you set the interviewer straight about moving plants. It's what gardeners do!

    I like the idea of a plant graveyard, but mine would be large too, perhaps a 1/2 acre by now. Too large to be practical.

    lol about the rusted sign. We gave my FIL a piece of yard art depicting a small figure reeling in a giant fish (he's not just a fisherman, he's a fanatic) and I figured he'd gripe about it being rusty. Actually I was pleasantly surprised when he just really liked it.

  10. Laurrie, What a fun concept for a post. Like you, I am constantly moving things around in my garden, too. And then I wonder why it takes things so long to mature!

  11. Laurrie, just wanted to let you know that I have passed on an Earth Day meme to you. Take a look at my latest post for details. ~M

  12. Sweetbay, I can't believe you would have a plant graveyard as big as half an acre!

    Debbie, I do end up setting my plants back each time I move them, and then getting frustrated when they take so much time to get going.

    Marguerite, thanks for the invitation!

  13. I LOVE this post!!! Your designs are really beautiful! I've resolved this year to show my entire garden beds, even when they are less than fabulous, instead of just up close beauty shots. I love the pix of he amsonia and the fleeceflower. Gorgeous!!

  14. TS, Thanks so much. I do look forward to seeing the long shots of people's gardens so I can see the whole design. Can't wait to see more of yours.

  15. Ha! First of all, I'm nodding in agreement - my husband still doesn't understand the constant moving of plants. Even after 20 years together! Secondly, that it will all look different next year - so true! And lastly, that slate/stone path is to die for ;)

  16. Cat, I've heard from so many gardeners who confess to moving plants around all the time. We are not alone I guess!

  17. Lorrie, your photos are great! I love that little juniper at the very bottom photo. I think it's a juniper. Maybe a blue picea or something. Not sure. But it's great. And I think the rusted sign is perfect there. It speaks of time.

    In case you didn't catch it on my blog, the fifth wheel is for the spare. LOL


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