March 17, 2013

My Gardens All Need Names

What do you call each of your garden spaces?

Without an easy way to identify where things are, I find it gets confusing when I want to make a note to myself on where I need to do some work. And photos need consistent labels in my photo editor.

Without names, it gets silly when I want to tell Jim where I need a photo taken.

Can you get a shot of the viburnum for me? It's looking so nice now.

Sure, where is it?

It's out back. You know, the wide shrub out there. The one in front of the higher part of the back area, it's behind the middle garden but in the front of the back part of that long garden. In back.

It's much easier to say It's the shrub on the west end of Meadow's Edge.

Meadow's Edge is the big garden space that backs up to the untended meadow. That's easy.

The Birch Garden is a raised round bed surrounded by white birches.

But there is an art to naming gardens. They should have memorable names, not just a location or a specific anchor plant. "Front Garden" or "West Walkway"? Yawn. Those are spaces I have labored over and invested a lot of my creative energy in. You wouldn't know that by what I call them.

I want a name that evokes the experience of that garden, not just where it sits on the property.

The north garden is a small foundation planting hugging a corner of the house that is, well . . . on the north side.

The sign in this small area points to where our adult children now live. Jim made it, but misspelled Massachusetts, so I have to hide the error with strategically placed foliage. Surely he would know what garden space I mean if I mention the Blooper Patch.

When I walk past the narrow strip of plants along the front walk, I always think of the year the voles ate everything, absolutely everything, and the entire garden had to be replanted. It was traumatic but rewarding, as I am still tinkering with the aftereffects of their damage.

I call it the front garden but I think of it as The Vole's Rampage.  I should rename it that.  After all my laments about what happened in that area, Jim would know instantly what I was referring to.

In the pea gravel sitting area there is an oblong rounded rock that is gray and shaped like a whale's body surfing the gravel sea, its tail about to flip the nasturtiums over.

That rock was placed there the winter we went to Maui and saw humpback whales cavorting in the bay-- a truly memorable sight. Each time I sit in the area that I call the gravel garden I see that rock and think of warm Hawaiian breezes, those astonishing whales, and the good friends we shared that experience with. I should rename this The Humpback Garden. It brings me such memories.


Coming up with what to call a garden forces me to identify what is unique and interesting about it. Why I created it. What makes it distinctive. Or what I feel or remember when I am in it.

I need to think of new names for all the other areas, and I might do that. Then I'll need to relabel all the photos of those gardens in my photo editor. Thank god for "batch change".

I'll need to get Jim used to it all so he knows what I mean when I ask him to haul those bags of mulch to The Serenity Walk --- named that because, for some reason, every time I walk down this path I relax.

63 comments:

  1. Laurrie, you've hit on something we know as soon as it comes to us: Names matter, whether in places or places in gardens.

    They certainly work on a practical level. But, as important, they evoke memories, thoughts and connections to the spaces we name. The names you suggest to yourself illustrate the range of recollections – good, bad, indifferent. Humpback and Serenity Walk might bring a smile. Voles Rampage, well, that speaks for itself.

    Name on.

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    1. Lee, my favorite garden name is still "Big Momma's Garden".

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    2. Mine, too, Laurie. Thanks. BMG is by far my most evocatively-named space; most of the rest are utilitarian, including Moss Garden, Grasslands, Slope Garden . . . . But they do get the job done – locating them.

      You going to make a Big Momma's Garden?

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  2. Such nostalgic and romantic names for your gardens. Mine are mostly named for placement, shape or as you say the anchor plants. You have given me something to think about on this cold dreary day.
    Happy St Patrick's Day.

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    1. Lisa, I bet you could come up with romantic names for your gardens, or maybe name one for Luna's favorite spot.

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  3. In the front I have the birch garden, rose garden, wall garden. But in the back which is divided into three areas is known simply as yard 1, yard 2, yard 3. Not terribly evocative, but it works. No one should have a vole garden.

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    1. Patty, I agree, it is a travesty that anyone should have a vole garden.

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  4. Your serenity walk is aptly named. I feel relaxed just seeing a photo of it.

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    1. Heather, Good. The sign is working. All who enter my garden down this path must relax.

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  5. I agree that garden areas should be named something special. I have the East Bed and the Corner Bed. Not very poetic, but my husband does know where I'm talking about. Maybe I should rename some of my areas, too. Love the name Serenity Walk, and your Maui garden is wonderful - how serendipitous for you to have acquired a humpback rock right after seeing the whales!

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    1. HolleyGarden, The whale rock in that garden and the trip to Maui were unrelated, but for some reason (timing I guess) one reminds me of the other.

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  6. The Vole's Rampage? I love it, that's fantastic.

    We have names for most of our gardens, though admittedly they're not as cool and unique as yours. We have the Birdfeeder Mound, Plum Tree Alley, The Iris Mound (we have lots of mounds). I'll have to put it on the agenda to start coming up with some more cool names.

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    1. El Gaucho, I like your Garden of Mounds & Alleys. You could work with that. Some signage, a few more mound names . . .

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  7. I have names for my gardens, but they are very prosaic. Driveway Bed, Sidewalk Bed, East Bed, West Bed. You've inspired me to try to come up with something more poetic. Very lovely garden and photos, by the way.

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    1. Jason, Thanks. I'm sure you can devise some memorable names for your spaces. Just be sure others know what you are referring to!

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  8. Hi Laurrie...Your gardens are sooo beautiful!!! Just amazing!! I have a couple of names, but they're not good names, e.g. Picket Fence garden. Well, that's just because it runs along the picket fence. The only "good" names I have are Morrow Park, Phase I, II and III. I'll need to think of some good names for my gardens!

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    1. Christy, I like that your gardens are numbered for phases. That implies continuity and a real plan!

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  9. Genius genius genius!!! I mean seriously you are so right on this topic. To much blood sweat and money..ha...mostly just plain passion and love go into all of these different gardens we all have. I am embarrassed to say that I was calling them zones. How boring and dull! I hope you don't mind if I use this idea. I think even to have it categorized on my blog with different names would help me see the evolution of each space over time. Thank you for this spot on post! I enjoyed seeing your gardens today and I am with you on the weather Here in Chicago they aren't calling for mild days anytime soon.

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    1. Nicole, I like using "zone' -- I hope you come up with names that still use zone in them. It sounds grand that way, like you have a botanical garden going : )

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  10. Oh yes.... naming our gardens makes them members of the family. I have My Father's Garden, the Japanese Garden, Dogwood Alley, the Vegetable Garden, and the Generator Garden (which is nothing more than a holding bed near our generator). Your photos are great.... had a rough year in 2012 but provided the storms remain at bay, we should be good in our corner. Look forward to seeing you more often!

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    1. Wendy, You have great names for your spaces, especially the one for your Dad. The Generator Garden is my favorite, though!

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  11. Sounds like you have some great ideas for names already Laurrie. I too struggle with this issue. We have such a large space, I need to tell hubby where I'm headed or he may not find me. Thus far I've been resorting to front, back, lower but even that is confusing. Our proper front door is never used so I find myself calling the side door the front. I like how your names are more about memories than locations. there's a more personal quality to the names.

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    1. Marguerite, You definitely need names, and your property is so diverse, you could easily name areas the Old Orchard, the Vegetable Venue and the Plume Poppy Plot and still keep going : )

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  12. the gravel are you should call pure bliss!!!

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    1. Sharon, thanks! If I had a place in the gravel area to hang a hammock, it would truly be bliss.

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  13. Great timing of this post, as I've been thinking that "Front Yard", "Side Yard", and "Back Yard" don't quite evoke what I'm trying to do with my gardens. Like others, I love that some of your names are after memories. I look forward to seeing what else you come up with.

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    1. Kathryn, I agree that you need more than front, side and back for your lovely garden. Even a small city garden has distinct areas with their own attributes!

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  14. If you took these pictures this year, your garden is far ahead of mine. Beautiful. I call mine a B C and so on.

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    1. Juanita, oh my, no -- these pictures are from earlier summers! As of March all I have outside is brown mud, and gray twigs. There are buds, and a few snowdrops are up, but no daffodils or any greenery yet!

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  15. I like your idea of naming gardens. I can't think of any names for my gardens yet, but I will try to develop some. Meanwhile, I've shared your post with the Gardening community on Google+ https://plus.google.com/118012491161466319437/posts/JAqJJhvCgWQ

    :)

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    1. Aaron, thanks! I'm sure you can come up with garden names, just by referring to their use or locations, or the first random thing that comes to mind as you go out there!

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  16. Laurrie, I know the name for your viburnum: "Kalinka" that means 'viburnum' (in russian)

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    1. Nadezda, now you have the tune "Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka moya" running through my head all day : )

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  17. My names are all about location or are a rough, no-name-brand sort of description: "rock garden". I like the idea a name might evoke the experience of that garden, not just where it sits on the property. I think every garden should have a "Serenity Walk".

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    1. Jennifer, Your garden certainly must have Serenity Areas --- I've seen some lovely pictures of your garden that would qualify!

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  18. I LOVE your garden names, especially "The Voles Rampage" and "The Humpback Garden". If only I had such interesting stories and memories to rename my spaces after. Maybe if I think really hard...

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    1. Lyn, You surely do have interesting spaces that could be named. I can think of a space near the back of your garden that would be the Fisherman's Casting Pad, or a cute little pond near the house that could be The Fairy's Bath Tub. : ) So many possibilities . . .

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    2. Heheheh... I like the way you think.

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  19. I found your blog via Nicole's blog. I like the blooper patch the best; you have a great sense of humor!!

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    1. Stacy, thanks. I actually have several areas that could qualify for "blooper patch" since there are so many mistakes I've made, but one is enough I think : )

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  20. I love this! All the different parts of my garden have names. I still haven't come up with a replacement name for The Bed of Death and Misery. Maybe I'll call it my Victory Garden. :o) Meadow's Edge sounds very literary. I like it even more now.

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    1. Tammy, I like your Bed of Death & Misery -- well, the name, not what goes on there!

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  21. Definitely some food for thought here. Since I've never thought to invest any creative time thinking about it, my gardens are all have boring names that incorporate a location or primary feature (shed garden, small fountain/screen porch garden, hot tub garden etc.). I do have a Reclamation Area though it could be confused with The Wall Garden. As long as it's just me I guess I don't have to worry :). My Vole's Rampage has been renamed The Cat's Revenge. Fun read!

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    1. Sue, thanks. You could just capitalize the names you already use mentally (Shed Garden, Hot Tub Garden) and you'd have official, sanctioned names : )

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  22. I love the idea of coming up with catchy or intriguing names for my gardens but I'd probably forget any names I might give them, outside of those that include their locations, and I'm pretty sure ... no, very sure ... doing so would drive my husband nuts. Since I like him, I will refrain.

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    1. Joene, Ha! Location descriptions are the most useful if you are trying to tell someone else where you mean. Anything that is a personal remembrance will need explaining, and that does complicate it : )

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  23. Well, no matter what the names, you garden(s) are gorgeous. By the way, I do the exact same thing when I ask my husband to take pictures: "You know, the one behind the thing that is growing next to the tree you pruned." The only area in my yard that is named is The Valley of Death. I guess I should try to come up with something positive for a change.

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    1. Sarah, The Valley of Death sounds ominous. Sometimes renaming a space makes us like it again -- labels do change our opinions : ) I know you have lovely gardens that could use lovely names!

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  24. You've inspired me to come up with something other than "the bit behind the wall." But it'll take some time. It's like filing: you come up with a category that seems to work and then there are all the things that don't fit into only one category, and then you can't remember which file you put which thing in and you wind up with piles on the floor. At least I do.

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    1. Jane, it truly is a lot like filing -- what makes sense at one point becomes a meaningless reference later. But that's certainly what we love about gardens, they change all the time. . . even their identities!

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  25. Your garden is just magazine worthy. It's absolutely beautiful. And I enjoyed learning why each specific garden area is memorable and special to you. This is a really sweet post.

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    1. Cat, ooh, I like that -- "magazine worthy" Thanks!

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    2. Cat is right.

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  26. Your serenity walk is just beautiful, Laurrie, and I agree with Cat that it looks like a photo from a magazine. I love all your ideas for new names for the gardens and had to laugh at your husband's misspelling and your camouflage of it:)

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    1. Rose, thanks! The Serenity Walk is actually the main way back and forth between the garage and the back yard so I am always in the middle of tasks and carrying tools when I walk it. I need to be reminded to relax at every step : )

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  27. Laurrie, your garden is beautiful, and I enjoyed this post very much. I like that the names you have chosen tell a story. Names can be tricky, and I learned they don't always convey the meaning we intend. Most of my garden areas have safely dull names, Front garden, etc. But I call part of my garden the Lady Garden, because of the lovely lady's head pot located there. I was flaunting the name across the blogosphere, when a blogger from England informed me that Lady Garden refers to a lady's private parts!

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    1. Deborah, I remember when the Idiot Gardener told you about the meaning of Lady Garden -- how I laughed! I'm still chuckling . .

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  28. I have A Vole's Rampage too, as you saw in my last post.

    I don't have good names for my garden beds AT ALL, but nothing has come to me. Can anything be less inspired than "big bed", except perhaps for "big perennial bed" ? I've thought about naming it "the garden bed in which I beat my bed against the proverbial garden wall', but that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

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    1. Sweetbay, that doesn't roll off the tongue, but Frustration Field does. Or the Head Banging Garden! But it is so much better to have positive names. Big Perennial Bed works too : )

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  29. Hi Laurie,
    I frequently look at your other blog and never realized i could comment here and let you know how much I enjoy it. I'm so excited about spring and finally see a breakthrough in our weather here in Wisconsin! Your photos are whetting my appetite for this years garden!

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    1. Anita, thanks. My appetite is whetted for this year too, even as we wait and wait for some warm temperatures.

      I'm glad you enjoy the other blog. I did not enable comments there, since it is just my journal of tasks and observations -- a running blather really, and prone sometimes to whining. But it does document my garden over time.

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  30. I have the Celtic Lady Garden (named for my blog and full of Celtic decorations), the Moonlit Meadow, Dragonfly Way and the Fairy Garden (with fairy statues). But I still need a comprehensive name for all the gardens. Everything sounds so pretentious - I live in a little stucco cottage and the "gardens" are just small areas of my yard.

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    1. Julie, I like all the names you have for your spaces. Even small areas need whimsical names!

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