In this recent post recent post, my good friend and fellow blogger said the following:
"It takes an aesthetic adjustment to see the beauty in "scrub." But for me it certainly is worth twiddling the knobs."
And that really made my whiskers tremble just a bit, because it brought up a question that the garden selection committee of the Going Native Garden Tour has to confront frequently during garden evaluations. What are the requirements for a garden worth including in the tour.
We actually have fairly clear rules for acceptance on the tour:
- More than 50% native plants.
- No invasive plants.
- Environmentally friendly garden practices.
- Attractive design.
We are fortunate to always have at least one designer in the committee of three that visits gardens that applied. But I personally believe that we all know good design when we see it. A beautiful garden, whether with native plants or not, should not require an aesthetic adjustment.
I make a distinction between yards in which plants are haphazardly placed, taken care of by a mow and blow crew (or not at all) and gardens (below is a garden, even if the photo doesn't quite do it justice).
In a garden, plants are selected carefully. The garden includes plants with differently shaped leaves and different height, and the plants are placed in a pleasing manner. Different garden styles might make different placements more pleasing. In a formal garden, symmetry is key while a natural garden might group plants in threes and fives. The garden might include paths, birdbaths, art, seating areas, water features, or otherwise interest and draw in the visitor.
"Come closer," the garden says. "Enjoy! Sights, sounds, smells, it's all waiting for you!"
Of course, deciding which gardens to accept is not always easy. Sometimes we encounter a garden where the designer had specified 75% native plants and the installer substituted non-natives such as Mediterranean plants for half of those plants. We cannot accept that garden. Sometimes we encounter a garden that is truly overgrown and weedy. We might talk to the owner and find out whether they can remedy the problem to have something a little more like this on tour day.
For the most part, though, the wonderful people who are willing to have their garden on garden tour care deeply about gardening and about native plants. They are excited about the opportunity to showcase native plants in an attractive setting, and they know that aesthetically appealing native gardens are essential for inspiring more people to consider including natives in their own gardens.
Interestingly, Ms. Country Mouse's own garden would certainly be accepted on tour. Attractive bird baths, placed just so. Plants in containers around the pool, a front entrance area (shown below) with native flowering perennials, some trellised plants, a flagstone porch, and a comfortable place to sit.
Then the fun mercat guarding the small Victorian fence. There are also flagstone paths, hummingbird feeders, and birdhouses, all saying "A Gardener Lives Here!"
Which brings me to the final ingredient of a garden: The gardener herself, taking care of the plants or getting qualified help, and enjoying the garden and all creatures that visit. (No aesthetic adjustment required).