We might be in the depths of winter but the gardening season has begun. It begins with dreams. Beautiful, perfect, improbable garden dreams. I cannot think of a better beginning.
As the seed and plant catalogs arrive, my heart beats faster. Excitement is high. The images in them are mouthwatering and every greedy instinct I possess kicks into high gear. I covet every plant. While I already know where and what is needed in my already burgeoning garden, I’m happy to fantasize impossible-to-grow-here specimens. For a few fleeting moments every so many hours, I envision a myriad combination of plants. In my day dreams I have assorted dogwoods, redwoods, elms and even coconut palms in my quarter acre piece of Paradise in the currently frigid northeast. Not all at the same time – even in my dreams I cannot be that wild. I imagine all sorts of shrubs and perennials and I’ve developed a a fun pastime where I mentally design beds of plants that will look stunning together but in reality cannot co-exist. Adonis lilies mingling with agapanthus in the perennial bed anyone? How about an allée of plumeria trees under-planted with peonies? I have a mental plan for a perfume garden surrounded by a low hedge of rosemary, an entryway arch supporting creeping, night-blooming jasmine and inside, there will be a pergola covered with wisteria. Paths of thyme will take me past lilacs and roses encircled by phlox, lilies and gardenias.
It is so much fun to go into these reveries. Abandoning all the natural restrictions, to create gardens in the air is positively therapeutic. It is the first step to creativity. But there is another big benefit. In the process of dreaming, one learns about oneself. The colors, patterns and shapes one prefers. Whether fragrance is important. The season that is most enjoyed and why. It can be eye-opening.
Emerging from it all can be the design for your actual garden. Taken by the idea of lavender borders but cannot grow the plant where you live? Perhaps Blue Wonder or Walker’s Low catmint will fit the bill. The look will be similar. Russian sage might work too. Another approach is to use your dream list and then substitute invasive non-natives with native alternatives. For example, get rid of Japanese honeysuckle and plant instead the American variety. For fragrance, add Clematis viorna. If you like the strong vertical style of Miscanthus species for fall/winter interest, go for our native split-beard bluestem or switchgrass or little bluestem or Indiangrass instead. Similarly, rather than the Burning Bush euonymus, plant oak-leaf hydrangea for fall color. All sorts of matters can get sorted out this way. The least of which will be your growing knowledge of innumerable plants.
I carry the newly arrived catalogs with me. Then I dive into mini-reveries every time I must wait and kill some time. Keeps me calm, feeling productive and makes time fly. So, go ahead, let your imagination run riot. Come spring, you’ll be well on your way to creating the garden of your dreams.
Flower seed packets:
Vegetable seed packets:
(c)2015 Shobha Vanchiswar