A new kind of madness

I was reading the introduction of an embroidery book yesterday morning which really spoke to my inner gardener, as much as my embroidery self.  The book,  Needlework Antique Flowers by Elizabeth Bradley is from the early 1990s and belonged to a former member of my Embroiderers Guild who sadly died earlier this year. I love ‘old’ embroidery books as they often have real instructions on all sorts of lost stitches and techniques.  This book is about woolwork which is essentially like tapestry by done with cross stitch instead of tent stitch.  Anyway, I digress, the thing that struck a chord with me was the following comment from the author:

“Modern gardeners and gardening writers seem to fall loosely into two schools.  The first are plantsmen whom I greatly admire.  They really know their charges, can remember their Latin names however often they change, and thoroughly understand what each plant needs to thrive.  Their gardens, although often beautifully designed and laid out, differ from others by their plants also growing perfectly, each well staked and with enough space around it so that it can grow properly and be seen to best advantage…..I as a gardener, fall into a second category that can only be described as the school of enthusiastic amateurs.  I love my plants and know most of their names but just will not make the time to really find out what is necessary to get best out each.”

The reason this struck a chord with me is I often like to think of myself as a plantsmen, although I recognise I am being a little presumptive. Some gardening friends seem to think I am very knowledgeable ad plants (if they read this blog they would know I can’t remember one name from one week to another) and I do research what conditions my plants need but I fail completely when it comes to showing my plants perfectly so they can be seen to the best advantage.

Maybe this passage was in my mind when I spent some time on Sunday morning tackling the big border.  What started out as a little dead-heading quickly become more involved and the large red opium poppy was dug up.  Its huge leaves have been smothering so many other plants and I have decided that it is just to substantial for the border, which I am trying to focus more on grasses, bulbs and grassland plants.  The poppy has been cut back hard and potted up ready to be planted out in the front garden, as part of the editing work that needs to take place.  The camassia foliage has added to the problem as the leaves are dense, sword like and long and when it rains are flattened down on new foliage from other plants which are trying to grow; so they too are being edited. The alliums suffered the most from the suffocating foliage and were growing almost horizontally with weird kinks in their stems. So……

…each allium ended up with its own stake – how mad is that!  I think this must surely be the way to madness.  The lesson I take away from this is to plant alliums amongst less dominating plants.

Whilst, I aspire to show each of my plants to their best advantage, because of my preference for well filled borders I don’t think I will ever grow my plants “with enough space around it so that it can grow properly” .


12 Comments on “A new kind of madness

  1. ‘With enough space round it so that it can grow properly’. Ha! Which plant fanatic plants like that? My plants are all shoe horned in. Who wants to look at bare soil anyway? Btw, I have that allium, I forget its name, but it grows at weird angles, it has really weak stems.

    • Exactly – good to know about the allium which makes me feel less of a bad gardener

    • LOL, I know exactly what you mean – I’m the ‘shoe-horned’ kind of gardener too! I suspect there’s a lot of us about!

    • Oh dont worry I dont, it just amused me that I was going to daft extremes to support the alliums

  2. My Mam has been talking about a garden where everything looked as though it had grown beautifully together to fill the space, and how when she tries to do it, all the plants end up scrambling all over one another.. So I don’t think you’re alone!

  3. Naturalistic gardens are on trend. Nothing at Chelsea this year was manicured, or at least not in the way Elizabeth Bradley envisaged. There is hope for us yet!!

    • Are but there are naturalistic gardens and naturalistic gardens. All the Chelsea ones will have been primped within an inch of their lives so all artifice rather than how a garden would grow year on year. I want my plants to look their best but I can’t see that I will ever be a gardener that embraces the bare earth around a plant approach, I think it’s very out dated but the book was from the early 1990s and I think we have moved on a long way. My comment was more about my amusement at finding myself staking alliums having read the passage that morning than a comment on trends, of which I care little!!!!

  4. You know, sadly, there are VERY few in the horticultural industries who know or care anything about horticulture. Almost all do it because they got bored with or flunked out of something else. Yet, they all think of themselves as plantsmen. I do not expect them to be as educated as I am with horticulture, but I do expect them to at least try to be at least slightly proficient, or even just slightly concerned with horticulture. I find that those who enjoy horticulture in home gardens and respect are much more qualified as plantsmen.

    • That’s an interesting perspective

  5. Ha, yes. Staking alliums definitely *feels* like one of those jobs you might be influenced into in a moment of madness…

    (But, y’know, if you want straight alliums, you want straight alliums! Whatever).

    About the plantsmen thing – I think there are even different types of plantsmen – for some it’s plant specific, for others it’s about what they do in a space and then I think that’s more… garden-specific, rather than plant specific, if that makes any sense?

    Horticulture is an important culture. But creating a garden is something very different, so I don’t think there needs to be too many rules about it.

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