Dames Rocket in a vase.
Goldfish from last summer's pond tour
"It turns out that you are a nobody gardener here Mom, unless your garden has a "water feature". Not a pond, mind you, that's way too country quaint! It has to be a "water feature" or it seems as though your garden is not deemed worthy of being seen by the public."
Water feature! Those two words do have a kind of grand, cinematic ring to them, don't they?
And here I am, all these years later, about to about wax-on about creating a garden "focal point". "Focal point" is another one of those somewhat pretentious terms that has the same flair for the dramatic as "water feature".
In my head, I started to imagine readers, who are always polite and encouraging in their comments, privately regarding their computer screens and rolling their eyes, "Blog posts on creating grand entrances, pathways and now one on focal points! Really, Jennifer! I just want to grow some pretty flowers and be done with it!"
Could all these years in the big city really have turned me into a garden snob who bandies around designer phrases as if I owned them?
Random shot of my front border
Gosh, I hope not! Honestly, I think that there is nothing wrong with a straight-forward, honest-to-goodness flower garden.
Growing up, my mother's garden was both simple and unpretentious. Her garden had no carefully designed layout. There were no curved beds, no sweeping vistas, no bubbling fountain or koi-filled pond. And if you asked her about her garden's "focal point", I am sure she would have told you, that if her garden had a focal point, it was surely the flowers themselves. My mother certainly knew a lot about growing flowers.
In my mother's garden, the beds were straight as arrows. One might think that this lack of artifice was unsophisticated, but actually, this simple design aesthetic was perfectly in keeping with the modern design influences of the late 60's and early 70's.
My mother never, ever, bought annuals like petunias or geraniums.
Having grown up in the depression years of the 1920's, she regarded annuals as an extravagance; throw-away plants that wouldn't last more than a single summer. There was also an element of snobbery in her opinion of annuals; they were common and therefore too ordinary for her tastes.
Her forceful opinions extended to perennials as well. In keeping with her contemporary tastes, she saw no charm in old fashioned cottage garden favourites like bleeding hearts.
Random rose shot. This is 'Clair Renaissance' which is an English Style Shrub rose
that I admired in the Spargette's garden in Brampton, ON.
And my mother absolutely detested roses!
My mother created her garden back in the 1970's, when we moved into a Pepto Bismol colored house overlooking the Halifax harbour. (These days, you couldn't buy a car for what my parent's paid for that house!) It was the era of harvest gold appliances, spider plants in macrame plant hangers, hot pants, mini skirts and platform soled shoes.
So what did my mother grow in her garden? A wide range of perennials, but her favourite flowers were poppies.
She had a large collection of annual poppies.
We had a vegetable garden too. It was a squarish, utilitarian patch of earth totally lacking in artifice. The vegetable garden's practical purpose was to provide the family with inexpensive food in the summer months. There were no herbs, no heirloom tomatoes. My mother grew modern, disease-resistant "Beefstake" tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, currants and common vegetables like beans and peas.
My biggest gardening influence has easily been my mother. I still aspire to have a perennial border that is as beautiful as hers was in early July.
I have also gone my own way at the same time. I do have bleeding hearts, roses and hostas in my garden.
And I take a far greater interest in the design aspect of gardening than she ever did.
Does that make my garden somehow better than hers? No!
I will use an analogy to explain the way I look at the comparison. A single violin can produce the most beautiful music. So can a full orchestra. The mix of different musical instruments in an orchestra adds complexity through layers of sound, but the music is not necessarily more appealing than a haunting melody played on a single violin.
My mother prefers the violin. I like to mess about with orchestral pieces. For me the design aspect of gardening adds an interesting level of complexity to more straightforward flower gardening.
It is your turn to have your say. Who or what have been your biggest influences in the way you approach gardening?