Through the Garden Gate: The best of intentions

Published 10:32 am Sunday, August 27, 2023

Way back in late January, when I was still browsing plant catalogs and making wish lists of plants that I would, oh so love to purchase, I promised myself that this year would be different. I’m not getting any younger, and it’s probably time I thought about downsizing the garden or at least making it less labor intensive. Fewer beds, smaller beds, nothing too labor intensive. 

I got off to a good start by resisting nearly overpowering urges to order a dozen ginger lilies, some pineapple lilies, and half a dozen gentians. I convinced myself that I no longer needed to grow lots of vegetables and ripped out the raised beds in the veggie garden. No more asparagus, leeks, and walking onions! No potatoes! As part of my regular maintenance work, I reset the two large mixed perennial beds behind the house, dug out all the moss roses except for one plant, and gave away lots of daylilies and irises. I even eliminated half of the giant rudbeckias and Joe Pye weed. 

Everything was great until the weather got warmer and those intense ‘I’ve got to have more plants’ urges commenced. I went to a meeting of the local daylily club only to discover that there was a plant auction. I tried to be good, telling everyone that I wasn’t going to participate in the auction. They laughed and handed me paper and a pencil. There were award-winning, healthy plants being sold at incredible prices. I resisted the urge to bid for about five minutes and then you can guess what happened. I bought a dozen plants. Will I be able to visit Deb’s Daylilies and Woodhenge Gardens this summer and not buy more? I’m not promising.

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The following week, I realized that my favorite supplier of daffodils had a discount on all orders placed before the first of July. My favorite supplier of bearded irises tried to tempt me with a similar order. Don’t tell anyone, but I ordered 150 daffodil bulbs and a secret number of irises. I even bought a Lady Banks rose, a climber that only blooms once in early spring and is finicky to say the least. It’s the sort of plant that might live for 20 years or curl up its toes and die after just one year.

So far, I haven’t rebuilt the raised beds in the vegetable garden, but I have planted leeks and herbs in the daylily beds and, horror of horrors, I’ve stuck a dozen okra plants in the flower beds along the front porch. Okra, crinum lilies, boxwood, soapwort, and echinacea. The neighbors are going to talk. 

If I were a rational person, I would be able to accept the fact that I should eliminate most of my flower beds and limit myself to a row of daylilies along the brick wall and several pots of geraniums on the front porch. Unfortunately, being rational isn’t any fun, and I don’t think it’s ever possible to have too many plants, especially old friends and ones I’ve never grown before. What happens if I become incapacitated and can’t take care of my garden? I don’t know, but I’ve decided not to worry too much. After all, at nearly 90, my friend Sydie in England is still down on her hands and knees using manicure scissors to even up the grass edging her mixed perennial beds. 

Gardening forever! It’s what keeps me “young.”

Dr. Cynthia Wood is a master gardener. Her email address is