23 March 2010

Well, it isn't orgainized.

... but it isn't ugly, either.


Above is part of my garden last summer-- it's pretty typical of all the gardens I've kept. Sometimes, I look out over my garden and think "it's beautiful" -- in the same way that a forest, marsh or other natural ecosystem is. When everything is working together and producing life, that is the pinnacle of beauty. And while that may seem a little melodramatic, it's nothing compared to the gutter-sniping in the blogosphere these days over ugly gardens.

In the article that started it all, Robin Ripley says, "If gardeners are going to approach grocery gardening in that lackadaisical way, I suggest they find another hobby."

First of all, who decided to call it "grocery gardening" -- that makes it sound like food stamp collecting and frankly I find it condecending -- like Marie Antoinette suggesting cake to the hungry -- I'll take eggplants over orchids any day.

Secondly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, sweetheart, and order does not always equal beauty. When was the last time you saw a field of wildflowers in even rows? And did you think it was ugly? I guess Mother Nature needs a new hobby.

Which reminds me, much like the term "grocery gardening" calling gardening a "hobby" dismisses everyone who is gardening because of food security issues or out of the need to stretch a budget.

Mary Schier suggests that ugly gardens might be a feminist issue -- hell, yes it is! Ripley's article reminds me of 1950s postwar ideals of housekeeping that led to the proliferation of jellied salads among other atrocities. In my mind, laying down landscaping fabric is the equivalent of putting on pantyhose -- you are not likely to find me doing either.

Do I plunk and plant? Not entirely. Do I plot out one foot squares in grids and allow for perfect spacing? Not a chance. My method lands somewhere in the middle and I get a decent amount of food and enjoyment for my (minimal) efforts. I also cut corners; I use and reuse whatever I can to get the job done -- last year I used plastic forks as plant markers; I pull weeds only when it is necessary or convenient. I have a laissez-faire attitude to gardening and I am totally OK with that. I think if I were to fret over row placement and companion planting and soil acidity and balancing plant heights and colours and persistent weed control, I would never plant another thing.

Yes, there are some important issues that need to be considered, especially for first-time gardeners but Ripley's offhand comments only serve to add a layer of guilt to an otherwise relaxing activity and do nothing to encourage new gardeners to give it a shot.


Cassandra of Avalon said...

I'll take function over beauty any day! And I'm totally with you on the panty hose issue! ;-)

Ada Saab said...

wonderful post! I have to go back and read those articles you've linked to but I can relate to the superior attitude you might find with many experienced gardeners - especially in our warm city. I have no patience for them.

You keep doing what you're doing. Forget the pantyhose. In my experience - and I'm talking all my life with my father and now as an adult gardening - the so called "neglected" gardens do the best. The seasons I've over-managed I've had less results and was more disappointed. There is something to the laisez faire gardener that the others haven't caught onto yet.