I read the books. I keep my eyes open. I visit pristine gardens. I try to plant in waves of odd numbered plants and I do my best to practice “right plant, right place,’ knowing that sun-loving plants pass out in the shade. But no matter how hard I try, my garden turns into a flowing mish-mash of foliage by the end of the season. It’s a late season bramble out there.
Come mid-August, the grasses drift into the spent coneflowers that flop onto the droopy salvia that covers the peaked creeping sedum that reveals the little volunteers that have sprouted up over the summer. The brown-eyed Susans come into their own, glowing and pert, thank heavens, and sort of take over, masking my shame and saving my garden face. They rule the garden this time of year.
I think faithful deadheading and judicious pruning could help my dilemma if I kept up with it better, but quite often, I am too busy planting new shrub roses or watering parched containers in the summer heat or God forbid, sitting and enjoying the view. It does help the messiness to get in the bramble and weed, which is a really good thing to keep doing this time of year until frost. What is it they say?: A weed pulled in the fall is worth a hundred in the spring? So I will step carefully into the nest of perennials and lift them up, like piles of laundry and pull the foliage that shouldn’t be there, then gently set the plants down nestling them gently into their beds, like toddlers at bedtime.
When I work my way through the bramble, doing this, and then give them a good long soak, they look better. Or is it that I have engaged with them and re-energized the beds and yes, the stray weeds are no longer mucking up the view, but most of all, the garden bed are connected again to the gardener’s hand? These are cultivated spaces we are dealing with, after all, and when the gardener disengages from the garden, things tend to go down.
That said, I have also learned to love the garden bramble, thinking of it as a sort of plant orgy, with all the different varieties getting ready for the big sleep that’s going to start in a couple of months. The bramble is really quite lush and lovely if you take off the perfectionistic goggles.
I’d like to think that what the garden teaches me the most is balance. That can mean getting out their and doing my due diligence and staying engaged with my endeavors until the end. And it can also mean ¬†taking things as they come and learning to love the slightly overgrown and patina-ed parts of life, releasing the control that I never had in the first place.