Garden Deeper

I had a visceral (in a good way) reaction to Adrian Higgins' writeup of a visit, with Claudia West, to Shenk's Ferry Wildflower Preserve.

I think I'll adopt "ecological horticulturist" to describe my own approach to gardening. Whether you specializing in gardening with native plants, like me, or prefer to grow plants from around the world, studying their native habitats is, in my experience, the best way to learn how to grow them in a garden.

That doesn't mean you have to recreate the conditions exactly. In many cases, this is impossible, anyway But the native Aquilegia canadensis, eastern red columbine, growing out of my front steps thrives there; this location recreates some aspects of the face of a limestone cliff where I saw, decades ago, a huge colony of them in full bloom.
Aquilegia canadensis, Eastern Red Columbine, growing out of my front steps, April 2012

This is why I'm trying to go on more botanical walks and hikes. Like many, if not most, gardeners, I've never seen most of the plants I grow in the wild. I visited Hempstead Plains for the first time in August 2013.
Hempstead Plains

That inspired me last year to remove most of the remaining lawn in the front yard and approach it as a meadow, instead.
The Front Garden, before de-lawning, June 2014Weeding is Meditation: Removing the old "lawn" for the new short-grass "meadow" in the front yardFinal grading for the new front yard short-grass meadowThe berm, planted. Took 45 minutes, >2/min, including some rework for overly loose and linear spacing.

Schizachyrium scoparium, little bluestem (grass), in my front garden, November 2014

Rain gardens and rock gardens are both examples of creating gardens to grow plants requiring specific conditions, and to meet human needs. But we don't need to go to so much trouble. For all the "problem areas" in our gardens, there are plants that want nearly exactly those conditions. We need only think like a plant to see these as opportunities, and embrace the habitats waiting to emerge.

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What you can learn from a walk through the woods (with Claudia West), Adrian Higgins, Washington Post Home & Garden

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