Gardenwise: seeing in the garden

Pictured above: A path through Rick Darke’s garden. | Photo by Rick Darke

There’s an old gardening adage that you should never make drastic changes to your garden the first year you move into a place, but that adage is also true if you’re just taking a look at the land. surrounding a house you’ve lived in for years. with an eye towards gardening for the first time.

Paying careful attention to the needs of your garden in all seasons was a goal that presenters returned to again and again at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Spring Gardening School and Garden Lens conferences the weekends of March 19 and 26.

Ever-growing threats to the natural world couldn’t help but show their faces throughout the series.

“We are in a time of extraordinary change. Things have always changed, but the only constant is an accelerating pace of change, said author and landscape designer Rick Darke in his Garden Lens lecture, “Dynamic Design & the Art of Observation.”

“The trick is to take the ‘upward’ view,” he added. “Change is good. It means you are alive and engaging.

He’s a self-confessed suburbanite and his one-and-a-half-acre home in southeastern Pennsylvania is his laboratory for “only things that are fit to grow here…. things that can live responsibly in a community.

He began his lecture with a late-winter visit to his garden, where, despite the snow, you could still see the seed heads of last fall’s asters, left for birds to help them through the winter. ‘winter. He then showed pictures of the beauty of color combinations found in different seasons, studied by plein air painters of the Arts & Crafts movement.

“It was an artistic and ethical movement, about regional culture,” he said. “There is no off-season. There is just a continuous progression of seasonal increases. We must get to know them all.

New York Times Garden editor Margaret Roach echoed this approach in her talk on “Non-Stop Plants: A Garden for 365 Days.”

“Our job as gardeners is to paint the picture with the plants that nature gives us,” she said, urging gardeners to “buy into their garden” perennials and biennials that re-seed in places. unusual, transplanting them where they might be more aesthetically pleasing. .

Both Mr Darke and Ms Roach praised the habitat provided by dead trees in the landscape, which can be secured while supporting life in the garden.

Ms Roach urged gardeners when buying plants to look for spring ephemerals, late autumn bloomers and ‘four-season performers, who are like soldiers doing the work in progress – real power plants “.

She said she started gardening in her mid-twenties, just after her father’s death, and as she became a caregiver for her mother who, at 49, was beginning to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. early.

“I needed refuge, and someone gave me ‘Crocket’s Victory Garden,’ the classic book,” she said. “That’s how I came to gardening, at a very difficult time in my life, and it’s still a great escape for me.”

Perhaps a victory garden is needed now more than ever as we all adapt to our rapidly changing world.

Margaret Roach is the author of “A Way To Garden: A Hands-On Primer for Every Season” and Rick Darke is co-author of “The Living Landscape” with Doug Tallamy, both of whom are great inspirations for the cold days of early spring.