Guest Rant by Wendy Kiang-Spray
I try not to judge gardener-created art or design because I feel so much of it is subjective. We all have different tastes. However, the only aspect I do constantly question is the “fortress look” in deer protection I wrote about here.
Today I ran by one of my favorite could-be-lovely-if they-only-lost-the-cage areas. I always slow to check out the serene woodland scene, surrounded by netting, and shake my head just a little bit. Today I noticed a new structure around the apparently well-loved hosta . It’s a ladder-like scaffolding holding the whole thing up. The gardener, figuratively and literally, has reached new heights with this contraption!
My first inclination was to balk at it. Maybe discreetly take pic and do a little Internet-shaming. I then recalled the hours I’ve spent recently writing a section in my upcoming book about the many trials the gardener faces – plant diseases, insect pests, clay soil, deer… when I felt a little ashamed of myself, actually. It occurred to me that the bottom line is that this homeowner refuses to give up on the hosta. I remember years ago, there was simply a cage around the plant. Later, it became covered in netting. Now the scaffolding. No matter how ridiculous it looks at first glance, it is a true testament to the spirit and persistence of the gardener.
My first season gardening was not successful. While I thought I would simply be able to do a little digging and plant rows of vegetables, I found my backyard soil was dense with maple tree roots, rocks, and lots of clay to pack it all together. Did I give up? I built raised beds. When I learned I didn’t have enough space, I disassembled and rebuilt. When my dogs trampled everything one spring, I built a fence. When flea beetles got the best of my eggplants, I moved them to pots in a different location. I’ve only been gardening for just over 10 years, but it feels like a lifetime. Yet, every year, I have some new plan for fixing something that failed the previous year.
What about lifelong, expert, or professional gardeners? Do you have a foolproof plan for each season that works? Every time I think I have a foolproof plan, some unexpected force puts a wrench in it. Maybe it’s a heat wave. Maybe it’s an unexpected killing freeze. Maybe it’s a life event that prevents me from getting into my garden as much as I want to. Maybe it’s the Brood X cicadas! Is there a perfect reliable system? I suspect not. There is always more to learn and good gardeners are never willing to give up. There are always new ideas to try – no matter how attractive or unattractive I personally may think they are.
Wendy Kiang-Spray is a freelance garden writer and is working on her first book about growing and cooking Chinese vegetables. She gardens in Rockville, Maryland and volunteers with the DC Master Gardeners.