Monday, March 26, 2007

The crocuses that got away

Do all gardeners have pangs of regret when a new garden feature means the loss of some favorite plants? I do.

One of my husband John's interests over the past few years has been stone carving, and last fall a couple of pieces were placed in the garden (after the landscapers and the machinery needed for the job finally were able to make it - five months late).

One piece put into place (see pic below) is a huge and heavy granite basin that still needs to be hooked up to a water arrangement, the workings of which remain a mystery to me, even though the plan has been explained to me - and more than once. (For the sake of harmony in marriage, especially of two gardeners, one has to leave certain details to one's spouse's conception of them. The rock is supposed to be an Oriental style fountain, but I fret that water reservoir won't be big enough.)

Anyway, I'm a bit sad to discover that the stone has covered up spring bulbs, including some of my favorite early crocuses. The perennials we moved out of the way in the fall, but, of course, one couldn't easily remember which bulbs were where.

However, we gardeners can't just be bleeding hearts when it comes to plants. There are more crocuses where those came from and, after all, plants aren't family pets.

I was reminded of this by Ursula Buchan, a columnist in one of my favorite British gardening magazines, The Garden, who recently wrote about the need for gardeners to cultivate a touch of ruthlessness:
"When I was young and green, I asked a respected and, it must be said, charming horticulturalist what characteristics helped make a good gardener. His reply was: 'Well, being a mean, ruthless b*****d helps!' I was so taken aback that I have never forgotten it, but in the years since, I have increasingly thought that he had a point."
I agree with her that to get to the goal of a well-designed garden, we gardeners "must be ruthless about what we throw out, and steadfast in that resolve."

But it isn't easy to let plants go without regret, especially ones we didn't mean to, like the poor bulbs under the rock.


  1. Yes, being a ruthless b*****d helps a lot, but I most admit that I'm a big softie in that respect. I still keep and water an overdue christmas basket because I can't force myself to throw away living plants...

  2. So true...and so hard! They do look adorable peeking out from under the rock, don't they?

    I've only become ruthless in the last year, I think. Prior to that, something had to die or try to take over the entire garden before it left. I do have unwelcome help from voles on occasion...who make choices I don't agree with. But, I do find that over time, some plants just don't thrill me any longer...and there are always more to try. Tastes and interests change.

    Famous last next year (note, next, I will have to ruthlessly cull and sort daylily seedlings. We'll see just how tough I!

    I do think you are lucky to have someone who shares your interest...however challenging that can be at times...Can't wait to see it with water!

  3. We are having a retaining wall replaced this year and I will have to lose some lovely lilac bushes so the work can go ahead :(


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