What does your garden say about you?

Adult Monarch on 'Will's Wonderful' mum is all of its bright glory.

What does your garden say about you? I’m reading a book that made me consider my own garden. It could do the same for yours. I wrote about the book in such exuberant and joyful terms on Facebook that several friends ordered it. I see it’s now a bestseller on Amazon. Great minds and all that.

Gardens of Awe and Folly by Vivian Swift
Gardens of Awe and Folly by Vivian Swift

Gardens of Awe and Folly: A Traveler’s Journal on the Meaning of Life and Gardening, by Vivian Swift, is part travelogue, part history lesson. It’s not a how-to book, which is fine by me. I pretty much know how to garden at this point–I can see you laughing–although I can always learn something new. It’s not a plant list book either. In fact, in Swift’s opening she writes:

“If all you ask of a garden is What?
then all you’ll probably get in reply is a planting list
But ask, instead,
Why? How? When? and, most of all, Who?
and then you’re in for a nice, long conversation.”

As Winnie the Pooh might say, Swift’s book made me have a big think.

Back garden in October with Purple Knight alternanthera and other beautiful foliage plants. Dee Nash
Back garden in October with ‘Purple Knight’ alternanthera and other foliage plants.

Gardens reflect their designer’s personalities especially if the designer is the gardener, or if you work with someone who really listens. After years of hard work, my garden shows the dichotomy of my personality. It not only reflects my inner self, but also, shows my growth as a gardener. There’s tension in its duality. Before you think I’m bipolar, let me explain.

Back garden with purple chairs. I have 'Ruby Slippers' growing in front of the arbor, but they are still small. On the right-hand side is American honeysuckle. On the left is 'Grandpa Otts' morning glory that is self-sown.
Back garden with purple chairs and Phlox paniculata in late June. The garden is starting to take off and be its Boho self.

In my heart of hearts, I am a free spirit. I adore art that is fluid with great movement. Yet, I don’t like most modern art because it stresses me out. I love billowy, Boho, fashion, but I’m also attracted by a distinct sense of order. I’ve often thought that’s why I’m Catholic. Catholic art and ritual makes my heart sing with pure joy, and its rules give me parameters I try to live by tempered by God’s mercy.

The fall front door decor once it was finally finished.
Fall is truly a time for coming home and sitting by the hearth on those cool nights.

I like to explore, but I also like coming home.

The front border is just beginning to take off in March.
The front border is just beginning to take off in March, and you can see its luscious curves.

Chaos both attracts and repels me. My back garden’s straight lines and its original design reflect my desire for order. While I enjoy the neutrals of green and brown, I also like bright colors that don’t fade in our harsh summer sun. There’s my Bohemian side again. My garden is probably the best visual representation of what goes on in my mind. It’s busy in here.

My love of bright colors might explain my passion for sun coleus and other tropical plants.
My love of bright colors might explain my passion for sun coleus and other tropical plants.

As I’ve grown older–I’m 53–my mind feels more cluttered than it did in my 20s and 30s. Yet, I’m also more at peace. I’m no longer trying to raise my children, and I have more time to consider priorities. I also don’t care about what others think of me quite so much. That’s very freeing. The 50s are a great time. Still, my brain is a cluttered space and often feels like a hard drive that needs a defrag.

If only it were that easy–

Back garden in winter shows the layout. Dee Nash
Back garden in winter shows the layout.

In winter, or early spring, you can clearly see the layout of the garden. It’s all right angles, triangles and diamonds. I think it’s beautiful especially when there’s snow on the ground, or in spring, when everything is just beginning to awaken.

I love the structure. I also like the feeling of small rooms within a larger space. Plus, the lawn–all natural and unwatered–flows away from the enclosed garden and down to a pond. I’d like to tell you I planned it this way. I didn’t though. I just wanted the garden close to the house because it was a kitchen garden, and we carved the it out of the lower pasture. One thing I’ve learned is if you want your garden well-tended, place it close to the house so you see it whenever you look outside. You can’t help but feel the need to work in it.

By July, it's difficult to see the structure in the back garden for all of the billowy plants.
By July, it’s difficult to see the structure in the back garden for all of the billowy plants.

In summer, the space gets much more full and blowsy which is what I want. Because my friend, Helen Weis, owner of Unique by Design Landscaping and Containers, stops by sometimes to play, she reminds me I need more symmetry to keep things in order. Over the years, I’ve followed her sage advice, balancing trees and shrubs on either side of the main border. I also now plant swathes of things like Phlox divaricata instead of collections of one.

Cestrum 'Orange Peel' with 'Pink Preference' autumn sage is one of my favorite plant combos. Both are hardy here. I'm planting them on the other side of the path next spring for symmetry.
Cestrum ‘Orange Peel’ with ‘Pink Preference’ autumn sage is one of my favorite plant combos. Both are hardy here. I’m planting them on the other side of the path next spring for symmetry.

In fact, I planted another Salvia greggii ‘Pink Preference’ autumn sage on the south side yesterday to match the one on the north side of the path. Even when you do this though, things don’t always grow the same way and bloom at the same time. Sometimes, they do though, and then, it’s breathtaking.

What does your garden say about you? The potager in June still shows its structure.
The potager in June still shows its structure.

In the potager, again, I have very formal lines, but as you see, it becomes happily overgrown by late summer. This growth and general bounty make me very happy. It tells me the garden is happy, and I am content.

Potager at midsummer with sweet potatoes. The sweet potato vines take over, but they sure are pretty.
Potager at midsummer with sweet potatoes. The sweet potato vines take over, but they sure are pretty.

I’m so glad I read Swift’s book. All gardens are folly after all, and they change over time which is part of what makes gardening so fascinating.

This weekend, I’ll be in Asheville, NC, speaking at the Mother Earth News Fair about Ten Tips to Start on the Gardening Path to Happiness. If you live in the Asheville area, I hope to see you. Come up and say hi.

Now, if you’re off this weekend and have time, have a big think about your garden too. Does it express your personality? If not, what small changes can you implement to make it yours? After all, as Monty Don, one of my favorite celebrity gardeners, would say, “Gardens aren’t about plants. Gardens are about people.” What does your garden say about you?

 

Rain chains are jewelry for your gutters

A few years ago I installed a rain chain right outside my kitchen window where I write each morning. As I hung it, I thought how much it looked like jewelry for my gutters–like delicate earrings for the home.

Rain chain hanging from my log house.
Copper rain chain hanging from my log house. Although it is super shiny now, it will eventually change to a darker patina.

A few weeks ago, Rain Chains Direct asked me to review one of their rain chains. I was able to choose the one I wanted to review. For the most part, I have quit reviewing products on the blog, but copper rain chains are special. So, I went over to their website and chose the copper blossoms chain. They also kindly sent me a gutter installer mount. Both of these worked great. When it rained last week, the rain chain did its thing, and I captured it in photographs. The rain was coming down very hard and splashed over the edge of the chain, but this didn’t seem to hurt anything. Perhaps, with a gutter reducer (which narrows the gutter), no splashing would have occurred.

Rain chain from Rain Chains Direct in last week's rain.
Rain chain from Rain Chains Direct in last week’s rain.

Rain chains work great, but you will need some sort of catch basin at the bottom to stop splashing and soil erosion. Some options include: rain barrels with a mosquito screen; a copper basin like mine below; rocks to break the flow of water; or even a rain garden with a dry stream bed. Rain chains allow for a lot more creativity around the home too. I love my catch basin. For a rain barrel, only half of a rain chain would probably be needed.

Copper rain basin with blue rocks.
Copper rain basin with blue rocks. This copper rain basin is older than the brand new chain so you can see the difference in patina. Eventually, the rain chain will darken and deepen in color. I assume it will eventually also turn green, but I’m not sure. My other rain chain hasn’t yet.

Rain chains are so much prettier than gutter downspouts. In Oklahoma, rain falls seldom enough it should be celebrated. There is nothing like the feeling of sitting down to the computer, a cup tea at your left hand and gazing out at the rain chain as it sings with merriment. Any time I can add a little coppery bling to my home, I’m happy to do it. What do you think about rain chains? Would you add one to your home?

As I wrote above in compliance with FTC guidelines, I received this rain chain free of charge for a fair and honest review. It works great.