I guess I’m a generalist gardener. What does that mean?
In my generalist garden, pollinators come first.
No real gardening agenda except I want to help pollinators including butterflies, native bees and hoverflies, along with my honey bees.
If a plant doesn’t help pollinators or other creatures in some way. I won’t plant it anymore. Although I still love my Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight,’ I wouldn’t plant another one because its bloom is sterile, and there is no nectar for butterflies and bees. H. paniculata Little Lime® is also sterile. On the other hand, H. paniculata Quick Fire® is covered in pollinators the entire time it blooms. Fireflies really love Quick Fire®. Want to read more about growing hydrangeas in Oklahoma? Check out my post, Hydrangeas for Oklahoma’s finicky climate. Note, there are other newer cultivars, but the ones in the post are those I grow in my garden.
Fewer double blooms
Again, because of the pollinators, I also don’t plant flowers with double blooms very often. As a generalist gardener, I’m not interested in double echinacea cultivars for example. Also, I’m more likely to plant a single-flowering rose of Sharon than a double-flowering one. One exception is Hibiscus syriacus Sugar Tip® I dearly love that plant because it is so doggone pretty.
In spite of the fact that Japanese beetles have finally found my garden, I will probably always have some roses. Roses were my first love, and I’m a sentimental soul. Spring wouldn’t be spring in my garden without roses.
So, there are a few exceptions to the rule.
I grow native plants and some cultivars.
My garden is composed of native plants and cultivars. Lindera benzoin, spicebush, a native, is one of my favorite small trees.
Then, there’s lavender. Someone asked me why I planted it in my potager. Because, it’s a great pollinator plant, it smells good, and it’s a classic for a kitchen garden. You can grow lavender in Oklahoma, but salvia is easier.
I love salvia. Here are three salvias to salivate over, but the salvia genus is big and mighty so plant whatever works in your climate.
I like vegetable gardening. I enjoy growing vegetables and fruit to eat. I’m a generalist gardener, and I don’t like topiary. Therefore, I won’t be part of #topiarytuesday on Instagram. I don’t care how popular it is. To do so would be disingenuous, and I try very hard to be genuine.
What I’m Not
A generalist gardener is neither a homesteader nor a prepper although I’ve had chickens, and I’m a beekeeper. I once had to feed a large family on a regular basis, but no longer. I can now garden to my heart’s content and really grow what I want to see, smell and eat. In the summer vegetable garden, that means tomatoes, peppers (hot and mild), eggplant, okra, green beans, etc.
No more livestock anymore unless you count the bees. We buy our beef from local producers who are friends, and I plan to do the same with pork and chicken this year. It’s easier to support my local co-op instead of growing everything we eat. I probably won’t keep chickens again in this lifetime, but never say never. I do miss their fluffy butts and cackling faces. Know what I don’t miss? Breaking their water and treating their combs for frostbite in the middle of winter.
I don’t miss our horses either. Basically, they felt like large dogs that had a lot of health problems and ate a lot of salad (pasture.) I also wish my deceased sister’s cat, Toonces, who was bequeathed to me because I was the only one left, didn’t live here. I know I sound a little bitter, but he is so mean to our geriatric cat, Sophie. Why is he mean to her? I don’t know.
Isn’t he pretty though? He’s great with people and a good mouser.
Not a purist either
I plant what works HERE IN MY GARDEN. I’ve never been an either/or person. I think you can grow native baptisias and still love roses. Although I’m a card-carrying member of the Oklahoma Native Plant Society, I don’t pretend to know everything about native plants. I’m a member because I respect the other members, and I learn a lot from them. I also ask questions when I need answers. ONPS’ Facebook page is a wealth of information. In fact, I stay on Facebook mostly because of the groups I’m in. I would miss them.
I think learning something new about gardening every year is an absolute must. Although I have a very large garden after 32 years, I don’t believe in jumping in headfirst. Grow a few raised beds or vegetables in containers before you plow up the back 40. In fact, I don’t believe in plowing up gardens at all anymore. I think raised beds in this time of crazy rains and weird weather are the way to go.
A lot of people ask me about my bees. Several people have also asked me to be their beekeeping mentor, but I’m not experienced enough to mentor someone else. Before you even think about ordering bees, find a mentor, or better yet, take a class in person.
Zoom doesn’t count.
Beekeeping is a difficult hobby, and there’s nothing like opening up a hive and seeing all those little faces staring at you. Especially, on the days when those little faces are angry and protective of their honey.
As one woman put it on my Women in Beekeeping Facebook group, “You will love your bees, but they will not love you.” On a good day, they tolerate us. On the bad days, well…
I still have a mentor, and I still ask questions. Once again, I don’t have all the answers. I think mature adults are always asking questions. Gardening and beekeeping are no different, and no one ever becomes an expert. Not even the experts.
That being said, I know a lot about gardening. That’s not a boast, and if you need some extra help, check out my garden coaching page. Although it’s not time to plant almost anything right now–except a fall vegetable garden–September is just around the corner.
Also, if you’re into podcasts, Carol J. Michel and I have a good one, the Gardenangelists. We’re in our third season, and we’ve helped a lot of people overcome their fear of gardening. Plus, we’re super honest about the challenges. This week we talked about tomato troubles among other things.
So, to be clear, I’m a generalist gardener. What type of gardener are you?