Wild within bounds


bottlegardenBelieve it or not:

After initially pouring some compost into the globular bottle, Latimer used a wire to carefully lower in a spiderwort seeding, and then added a pint of water to the mix. The bottle was sealed and placed in a sunny corner.

Apparently, the bottle planting, started in 1960, has been thriving ever since, with the last watering in 1972.

Whether this actually happened or not, there are so many reasons I love this story. I suppose it’s possible— I do have a four-year-old terrarium that I completely ignore with no ill effects that I can see—but that’s not the point. What is wonderful is the concept of control with no control. It is something for which I strive in my garden. The idea of continually dividing, moving, and otherwise fooling around with plants has never really appealed to me. I’m not afraid of the work; it’s just that it’s more interesting to watch what happens after a planting hits the ground.

I do like gardens to be full. I like to see foliage and flowers take over in a riot of colors and textures, and in such a way that weeding becomes unnecessary.

Of course, I can’t say that I’ve managed to achieve this. What I’ve done is fill the very defined beds that surround my house and patio with as many plants as I can, to counterbalance the urban feel. The idea is to walk into what appears to be a formal space and see informal, kind of wild, plantings. That’s what makes gardening in the city so interesting.  It can’t really get too out of control, so you can experiment with just about anything. Like a jungle in a bottle.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. My daughter was out in the garden with me this weekend, and she was saying that she can’t wait until it gets the “Alice in Wonderland” feel. All wild and overgrown I guess to some people. The garden is only 5 years old, but I do my best to make it feel like an overgrown mature secret garden.

  2. I love it! The chaos in a bottle is definitely a great icon for describing what many gardeners work toward. Packing lots of plants into a limited space is to me, what it’s all about. 🙂

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