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The Garden Coach

Stump gardens a use for storm wreckage

The Garden Coach

A reader sent in a question about one of the items on my “to do” list in my last column (Nov. 10, Lakeville Journal) about storm wreckage. He wanted to know, “What’s a stump garden?”

The one I’ve been working on for the past year is hefty but pretty simple. I had sections of a big tree scattered haphazardly where they had been cut at the edge of a woodland garden. They were too gnarled for me to split and it was too costly to have it done professionally.

After the storm: A gardener learns acceptance

The Garden Coach

This is not the column that’s been rattling around my head for the past couple weeks. Somehow the finer points of woodland editing seem less relevant in the wake of the devastation wrought by heavy snow on fully leafed-out trees. It’s time to deal with nature’s major edit instead.

I’ve always somewhat skeptically admired people who, after losing a magnificent tree that shaded the entire yard, dusted themselves off and said, “Well, now I have a sunny place for all the plants I couldn’t grow before.”

It’s time to redirect energy in the garden

The Garden Coach

If you didn’t get around to pruning to shape that overgrown Japanese maple or clean out the congested clump of powdery-mildew plagued lilacs, you’re off the hook for now. Plants are redirecting their energy to get ready for winter and so should we.

Drawing new lines to germinate new planting ideas

The Garden Coach

I finally planted my fothergilla on Father’s Day. Now I can’t imagine it not being there.

Sometimes figuring out where to plant when lines have already been drawn and beds are full isn’t easy. It’s hard to see past what is already there, to think outside of the box, especially when beds run parallel to walls of the house.

There are lots of ways to jazz up the perennial border

The Garden Coach

Driving to and from Kent Center School, you can’t help but notice the flowery perennial borders Karren Garrity planted along the picket fence outlining her corner lot. As you round the corner or sit at the stop sign waiting for a school bus to turn, there it is, a gift to the street and a joyous reminder that summer is here. The walkers get a real treat.

When Karren asked me for some coaching, she expressed a sense of liking her plants but being vaguely dissatisfied with the garden as a whole. It looked great in May, June and into July, but then there wasn’t much to see.

Sometimes what’s there can work

The Garden Coach

Sometimes looking more and doing less makes for a more satisfying landscape. When a fellow Kent resident asked me to design a garden to screen his work area from family activities, the first thing I asked was what they already had. The reply — “Oh, it’s just the woods” — made me expect the same invasive garlic mustard, Japanese honeysuckle and trees girdled and broken by oriental bittersweet that are taking over more and more of our woods every year.

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Healing our home turf and environs

The Garden Coach

Nature doesn’t observe our property lines. The lives of plants, animals and all the unseen microorganisms that sustain life in the soil are circumscribed by different boundaries and connected in innumerable ways.

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Replacing more (lawn) with less (maintenance)

The Garden Coach

Some places were never meant to be lawn. And some problems might be opportunities in disguise. To look it another way (which is what garden coaches do), some places have too much character to waste on greensward. In this hilly part of the world, putting lawn everywhere that isn’t a planted bed by default leaves some pretty iffy if not downright dangerous places to mow.

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The basics of pruning

The Garden Coach

Even experienced gardeners are stymied sometimes, especially when it comes to pruning. They often put off pruning for fear of making a mistake, but then wind up with an overgrown mess.
As a garden coach I find that a new set of eyes, a few simple suggestions of how to approach a problem and a good deal of pointing and talking with my hands usually gives a gardener the confidence and knowledge to proceed.

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