Wildlife, Woodlands, Two Gardeners, Two Decades
Reflections on discoveries that changed our ideas of gardening
During the past twenty-five years our garden and surrounding woodlands have told a rich story. Some chapters tell of cataclysmic events: hurricanes, tornadoes, nor’easters, floods. Some chapters tell suspense stories of plants, those that settled in happily after a rough go, those that experienced near-death episodes, or worse. Other chapters tell of subtle
changes in weather patterns and cycles. Still others tell of habitat destruction, some of it caused by our presence, and of our resolve to give back some of what we have taken away.
Woven throughout the story is a kaleidoscope of plants and animals that changes through the seasons, yet remains constant each year. In this blog we will try to convey the adventures we have had in A Heron’s Garden. We hope you will share stories about your gardening adventures, too.
Our garden on North Carolina’s coastal plain has been a joint effort. Though we planned gardening elements together, yes we did occasionally plan, and bicker, too, each of us settled into a niche and played off each other’s strengths. Bob is an engineer by profession and inclination but has found one true calling since retirement as a (very patient) Master Digger, no idle skill, as I often play chess with the plants, almost always the large ones. Bob the builder is another of his callings. Bob took the lead on hardscaping: fences, decks, a gazebo, planting boxes, water system. These activities are cheaper (sometimes) and more productive than membership in a gym.
I took the lead on choosing plantings. While our children were young we spent six weeks on a grand camping trip to states beyond the Mississippi River. I fell in love with the wilderness of the west. Yet I knew nothing of the wildness on the east coast where we
lived. Guidebooks in hand, I began to ramble the woods and seashores near our hometown until I learned enough to lead educational walks and programs about the environment. I guess I always wanted my own nature center, and in a way, we have one on our property. We learn something new every day, but still we know very little about the secrets behind trees.
So it was natural to think about our garden as an extension of woodlands. No, we do not limit ourselves to native plantings. We have banks of azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas, viburnums, and an assortment of native and non-native plants. I probably own just about every gardening book in the world (stashed in not one but three bookcases Bob built). Once upon a time I would have liked to cram every plant that might possibly grow in zone 8, plus or minus a zone or two, into our bulging acre. Experience and reason have since prevailed, sort of.
The Master Gardener program in North Carolina is excellent. It helped direct my thinking and put me in touch with university resources, special workshops and conferences, and botanical gardens. I can’t overestimate the contributions that Master Gardeners make in educating the public about good gardening practices. They are keen gardeners, smart and
knowledgeable. And they are kindred souls, confirmed plantaholics, or (barely) recovering plantaholics, who regularly participate in group horticultural therapy. (Also known as purchasing plants, very uplifting.)
We are fortunate that our children and their families have a variety of interests in gardening and the outdoors. They are scattered from Georgia to New England, so we enjoy a rich exchange of ideas and experiences—and, of course, plants.
Finally, I would like to thank Bob the Computer Wizard. He patiently performs his magic on this blog while I wear out the letters on my keyboard.
Musings from A Heron’s Garden,