Two Bur Oaks and a Crawdad

A group of swamp white oaks Healthy soil is important, but for whom?  In the Garden  The young bur oak would not be kept down. Yet again it revealed itself among the standing dead stalks of a large patch of purple bee balm, a good three feet tall and leafing out. In spring, a bur oak’s leaves look like sharp-edged, glossy cutouts. They are not green, but shade delicately among soft corals, tans and pinks. The green comes a bit later, like a slow-motion wave gently pervading each leathery leaf. The question, as it had been for several years, was what to do with this young newcomer to the garden.  About ten feet away and across the walk from house to garage stands a second bur oak that I’d started from an acorn some twelve years ago. I’ve enjoyed watching it grow its first sets of true leaves, become large enough to attract birds and then mature enough to bear acorns. This winter I limbed it up three feet from the ground, mainly to give the sedges and wild geraniums growing underneath a

The Ugly Garden Kerfluffle


Browsing through garden blogs today, I noticed (belatedly) that there's been something of a kerfluffle* due to a post at Garden Rant condemning "ugly, unsightly vegetable gardens." Went and read the rant, which is precisely that, an exercise in hyperbole, even a polemic, if you will.

Yes, with veggies, it's better to weed than not to weed. And it's generally considered better to stake tomatoes than not. Healthy plants are better than not. However, rows do not necessarily rule. Square-foot gardening and sowing in patches is perfectly respectable. And so forth.

Mess is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. Are we gardening so things look pretty or are we gardening so that we have some good fruits and vegetables, while also fitting in with our ecosystem--and possibly helping to nourish it? if the latter, messy gardens are something of a necessity, and whatever works best ecosystem-wise probably is best, design-wise.

Myself, if forced to choose, prefer the principles of permaculture to the principles of axial symmetry and don't think I've ever met an ugly plant. (Ugly is not the same as needing help, after all.) To me the "ugliest" garden, even in need of help, is lovelier far than a manicured, chemical-addicted "landscape" of turf grass and trees.

Anyone (all of us) who is learning while gardening is going to mess up. OK. In my book, anyone who grows good produce by organic methods has a beautiful garden, regardless of appearances. And if you include a small native flower patch as pollinator habitat, you're on the way to gardening enlightenment.

So why waste your time feeling hurt and reacting negatively to some deliberately over-the-top prose? Go out and garden in the way that best suits your site and your self. If you're just starting out, visit the Chicago Botanic Garden's page, "How to Start a Small-Space Vegetable Garden."

Happy gardening to all.

*I think chard is beautiful--to me it looks like "kerfluffle" sounds.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Just read the garden rant, and my word it has provoked some responses. I happen to agree with you, mess is in the eye of the beholder. I have to say I am more of a neat gardener because, while I love my home grown veggies, I also like my garden to be a nice tidy place (at the moment it is anything but) to be but there are some allotments up the street that are very very messy but I am willing to bet that they produce some very special stuff.
igrewthistoo, I guess I think in terms of orderliness rather than neatness, per se. A garden can be very orderly without appearing neat. Thanks for stopping by.