Romance of the Garden

This is how I most like to garden—as a matchmaker who introduces a modest flower to a shy spot of land and watches them hit it off so well that I am irrelevant.

—Carol Graham Chudley and Dorothy Field, Between Gardens: Observations on Gardening, Friendship and Disability

I love this metaphor of the garden as a love affair between plants and the land. In this book, an exchange of letters between two gardeners, the authors both describe how they learned to let plants decide where they want to grow. They tried the horticultural equivalent of arranged marriages but found more success, and less stress, by welcoming volunteers, scattering seeds broadly, and letting the plants decide where they want to grow. Reading about the trials and errors of these two experienced gardeners makes me feel better about the weedy tangle that I call my garden. I’ve already learned some of their lessons. One winter I lost a lovely patch of Spanish lavender to cold and snow but rather than replace it I chose to plant more of the lavender varieties that had survived. This approach is really the only option given my marginal energy levels. There are times when I just can’t get into the garden for days or even weeks at a time, so if a plant can’t make it on its own, it isn’t going to make it in my garden!

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2 comments on “Romance of the Garden

  1. Stefanie says:

    I too share the survival of the fittest approach. I don't like fussy plants I don't have time for them so if a particular variety does well I will get more of them if not, their roots will never find themselves in my garden again which is probably a mutual relief! I know some gardeners don't like it when their plants start moving themselves around the garden but I love to watch where something might come up next. I have asters in my front yard still in their original location but also now propagating themselves in the backyard. I also have some pretty purple flowers I never planted (I think it's spiderwort) in one of my beds but since it seems to be so happy there I see no reason to move it. I'm going to have to look up this book because I think I will definitely like it!

  2. Sylvia says:

    Yes, I think you might enjoy it, not least because it is epistolary. One of the authors proposed writing to her friend and neighbour to focus her thoughts on gardening, and it turned into meditations on what gardening has meant to them in their lives. It is particularly interesting to me because one of them was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome also, and her struggles to garden and live are included in the book.

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