Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pick Your Battles

One of the summer garden entertainments I especially enjoy is visiting beautiful public gardens or garden walks.  I've encouraged readers to walk local shows and gardens and to take advantage of public gardens while on vacation.

The benefits and enjoyment are many.  The opportunity for taking photos, see new and unusual flowers and arrangements, ideas and just plain fun.

Maybe you're the type of person who goes, enjoys, and returns home contented with the day - never to go beyond that point.

OR - Maybe you're the type that wants to come home and implement something you saw.

Choosing to implement something new is great UNLESS you over estimate your talent, your stamina and your budget.

Large estates and public gardens often have used landscape architects and designers.  They have used serious hired labor to install large features.  Most have a large staff (constantly grooming the gardens) managed by a trained professional.  They are often funded by endowments or high level employment. For many (or most) of us, it is impossible to duplicate their efforts.

Yet, we visualize the large pergola, topiary garden, intricately laid stone patio, waterfalls, lakes, and foliage of every make and kind in our own yards.

I've seen some wonderful gardens where they have adapted some glorious feature into their own garden and done it with success.  I've also seen gardeners get discouraged because their own effort didn't turn out to be palatial estate worthy.

You may have the time and money to adapt a few features.  An example is a farm yard outside Galva.  The caretaker (whoever that might be) has a perfectly trimmed front hedge and several bushes trimmed in a decorative style.  They are always perfect and always a beautiful surprise in a farm setting.

What this person doesn't do is try to duplicate a public topiary exhibit with an entire yard of intricately shaped specimens.  This person picks his or her subject, limits the number and intricacy and produces a beautiful exhibit for their own needs and wants.  They pick their battles.

When you over extend any of the needed categories (Talent - Stamina - Budget) the result may never be satisfactorily completed.  It may cause pressure to always try to keep it perfect even when the rest of your time is needed elsewhere.  It can cause serious garden burnout.

I'm reminded of a hosta garden I visited on a garden walk in Galesburg years ago.  Other than trees and turf grass, this gardener had few other plants except hosta.  The hostas were perfectly groomed, placed selectively and with the eye of an artist.  What this gardener didn't do was have anything else to take his time (he did all the work himself).  If you'll notice, many fine individual gardens accompany simple homes and surroundings.  These gardeners pick their battles.

An individual's garden should be a place of personal refuge and enjoyment.  If you have the resources to have others help you - great.  The trick is realizing just where your talent, stamina and budget limits are.  Then, work within those limits to produce a personal refuge for your enjoyment.

“When your garden is finished I hope it will be more beautiful than you anticipated, require less care than you expected, and have cost only a little more than you had planned.”

 Thomas D. Church (A garden salute)

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