Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What Kind of Gardener Are You?

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

August.  The peak of summer. Sun blazing, humidity banished, enough rain to revive plants for an end-of-summer resurgence. With a speck of fall on the horizon, August is the month you push to make the most of what is left of the hot, bright days of summer.
It’s also the month when gardeners sit cross-legged on the lawn and meditate on the state of their gardens. Is it bee balm or bee bomb this year? Are the day lilies getting out of control? What the heck happened to the daisies? And hey, that plant turned out to be a weed after all. 
Sure, Christmas is in twenty weeks but the only list a gardener cares about right now is the wish list of flowers we want to plant next year. 
This August, as you sit in the grass gazing at the good, the bad and the ugly in front of you, making your list and checking it twice, you may want to consider which kind of gardener you are. 
Are you a Planner, an Intuitive or an Experimental Gardener?
The Planner sits down at the beginning of each season and maps out new beds, diagrams plant arrangements and measures out pathways. The resulting gardens are orderly and always in bloom. 
The Intuitive Gardener follows her heart. She listens to the soil and the bees and seems to know where to put certain plants, how to mix colours, how to make blooms appear just at the right moment in the right place. The gardens seem to create themselves, beauty and chaos in perfect balance. 
The Experimental Gardener plays around with colour and location. He dares to plant Love Lies Bleeding along the lane or plant a whole bed with only orange flowers. Trial and error is his modus operandi and he embraces the challenge like a cat embraces fresh catnip. His gardens are considered daring and creative, not haphazard. 
As I sit here gazing at the gardens I’ve been tending to and expanding since 2007, two things are clear: I haven’t learned much in the past eight summers, and I’m not any of those three types of gardeners. Unless Experimental has a sub-category called “Mad Scientist”.
Despite the Next Year resolution I make every August to plan ahead, I never do. In deciding where to dig a new garden, I pay no attention to moisture content of the soil or amount of sunshine and shade. If there is a plant I like, I buy it, stick it in the ground and hope for the best. If I like how it grew, I buy another one the following spring and put it somewhere else, usually in a hole where something else died. Mostly, I just plant everything far too close and my failure to ever measure anything means the stone walking paths disappear by August. 
So not a Planner and not really an Intuitive Gardener, either, despite the “Ooooh, that flower speaks to me so I must plant it in my garden” moment that happens in those early, giddy days of flower shopping.  My style is neither daring nor balanced, creative or orderly.
Random would be the nicest word.
And so it appears I garden the same way my Grade Two teacher said I did gym: With more enthusiasm than skill. 
New category: The Enthusiastic Gardener. Which sounds so much nicer than Mad Scientist.

In 2009, my cosmos grew very enthusiastically.

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