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Garden wisdom from deer country!

Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer

The seasoned gardener

published in The Union in Grass Valley CA

More information on soil preparation and mulching is detailed in Deer in My Garden, Vol.1: Perennials & Subshrubs and Deer in My Garden, Vol.2: Groundcovers & Edgers!

Viburnum plicatum tomentosum 'Mariesii'Welcome to My Garden
Is your garden ready?

by Carolyn Singer
May 22, 2010

Is your garden ready? Garden tours, weddings, visits from editors, or even a dinner party thrown for friends may send the most peaceful gardener into frenzied activity. One solution, of course, is to invite over only those people who accept you and your garden for all the wonderful individuality and even imperfections each offers.

My garden hat is off to those homeowners who are opening their gardens to the public this weekend. With winter weather that just would not quit in time to allow early maintenance, and every weed seed germinating in even the tidiest garden, this is a challenging year in which to "be ready" by mid-May.

Each garden has good and bad moments, much as the gardener does. At the very least, most gardeners will have to give up their expectations of perfection. In my own garden, the most perfect plant is the 350-year-old black oak behind the house. And if I had to give up all my other plants to keep only one, it would surely be this magnificent native. There is a powerful lesson here: this heritage tree has been and will hopefully continue to be perfect with no intervention from me.

The garden that challenges me the most is my rock garden, with the invasion of Johnson grass. But seen through my granddaughter's eyes when she was five years old, it was "Grandma's magic garden." Now almost 14 years old, it is still her favorite spot. She remembers sitting on a large rock, eating animal crackers. Sometimes, as I sit on a bench looking out on this garden, I realize that what is most important is the moment.

With limited time to garden, the nearby vegetable garden is most important. After 25 years of being "open to the public" I am much more relaxed about my flower gardens. It is the edible garden where I want to spend the most time.

One year an editor from Sunset magazine was visiting my garden. Thrown into what I call the "gardener's panic" the week before, I spread some compost over weeds I did not have time to pull. The compost was still hot, actively decomposing, and within 20 minutes had burned most of the foliage in my largest perennial bed. A good lesson in what not to do. And another of life's lessons in humility. Of course I showed the editor what I had done.

Another year I was writing an article about Artemisia for Fine Gardening magazine. Because I had mentioned that most of them were growing in my garden, the editor decided to fly from the East Coast to take photographs. While my garden looked wonderful, I left her a message (another manifestation of "gardener's panic") advising that there were picture-perfect Artemisia at the UC Davis Arboretum. Her message back: "I thought you said that your garden was ready". It had to be. She stayed for three days, photographing many areas of my garden. If a weed was in the way, she pulled it. And she loved my garden!

rain or shine!This weekend's garden tour is rain or shine. One year my own garden and perennial nursery were on this tour. Sunday was rainy, and I still have a vivid mental image of dozens of umbrellas of every imaginable color filling my garden paths.

Loropetalum chinenseOpen gardens are a gift to the fortunate visitors, whether it is a crowd on the garden tour or a select few over for afternoon tea or dinner. If you are a visitor at a garden that has been opened to you, express your appreciation to the resident gardener, and take time to sit on the first bench you see. A garden is meant to be in, not just walk through. And for that it is "ready" anytime, any weather, and in any season.

©2009 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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