Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
March, 2006
Regional Report

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Container citrus are decorative additions to an outdoor area, and their fragrant blooms and edible fruits are a bonus.

A Time and Place for Messin' Around

We've all heard the rules about landscaping and gardening. Landscapes should be created using proper design techniques, color combinations, balance, texture, etc. Vegetable gardens have their prescribed order, with productivity in mind. The list goes on.

Well, while I certainly appreciate the purpose and logic behind all such directions, I must say that I have a need for some space where I just do what I want without concern for all the aforementioned stuff.

The "Out Back"
I have an area "out back" where I just play and experiment. Plants set there are subject to being moved at a whim in the not-to-distant future. There is no real concern for aesthetics, although I find the eclectic amalgam of evolving horticulture to be quite interesting.

My space is an Etch-A-Sketch, where I can create and then wipe the slate clean and start over if I like. It's just for messin' around.

I may try a new way to grow or trellis a tomato, or plant something out of season to see if I can make it work. You know how we gardeners are forever drawn to some new plant we don't have? There is seldom a place in the ordered landscape for such spontaneous acquisitions. But there's always room in my space out back.

Star performers in this play area may get promoted to the landscape. New ideas that work get a shot at the real garden. But the space is not just a laboratory, it's an escape.

Contemplative Mowing and Watering
Can you relate to the therapeutic benefits of spending an hour walking behind a lawn mower turning a shaggy lawn into a perfectly trimmed patch? The drone of the mower drowns out all but your daydreams. A lot can be accomplished in an hour behind a mower!

At the end of a long day, the end of a water hose is another favorite destination for me. I know all the reasons why squirting water from a hose is not the best way to water, But whether I'm sprinkling a container of something I just propagated (you know, a plant I saw and just had to have) or a patch of turf that needs a little drink, it's winding-down time.

Give me a trickling garden hose and I'll squat down beside a rose bush and get some real thinking done while watching the water soak in, sending creatures scurrying out of the mulch to escape the flood.

In my outdoor playspace there are plenty of clumps of blooming herbs and flowers. Give me a glass of iced tea and I'll find a spot to just plop down and watch. You'd be amazed at how much garden life you miss on a normal stroll through the garden. Sit still and some small hover flies and tiny parasitoid wasps will show up for their sip of energy from a small flower's nectar. Move a little mulch and you may find a colorful metallic ground beetle in search of prey.

There is plenty of room for proper design and real landscape work; plenty of space for creating beauty and producing bounty. But we all need some space just for messin' around -- kind of like an adult outdoor romper room for playing and relaxing. This is my horticultural therapy.

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