Speaking My Mind

It’s that time of the year when the various “must have plants for 2011” lists start appearing in plant catalogues and other horticultural resources.  Oh, the pressure is on to have the “right” plants in our gardens and to be “on trend”!

Well, we’ve all seen someone wearing the latest fashion and have observed that it does not suit the wearer and often doesn’t even fit very well.  Is there a danger that, along with so much in today’s world, our gardens are going to become slaves to fashion – the horticultural equivalent of models teetering down the runway on impossibly high heels?

We should remember that the various “must have” lists that are generated at this time of year are often arbitrary, with the goal of parting consumers with their money.  There are certainly numerous lists, such as “top twenty perennials”, that are indeed perennial lists rather than of the “in today, out tomorrow” variety.  However, even these are subjective.  At Russell Nursery, some of us absolutely love pink, others can’t stand it.  We laugh about it because this is exactly the kind of difference of opinion that results in wonderful, unique, distinctly personal gardens.  What really is the point of filling our gardens with pink blooms because it’s the colour of the year, if we hate pink?

Perhaps we should resolve to trust our own instincts about what we like, at the same time reserving the right to change our minds!  I’m not sure I will ever form a deep affection for Dahlias!  After all, there are no hard and fast rules in our own gardens.  We can do what we like.  Sure, we’ll try a plant pick for 2011 because we like it and our research tells us it will do well in our own gardens; not because it is “the plant to have”.  A good nursery will first and foremost provide informed, knowledgeable advice we can trust about what will grow well in our climate and in the micro climates of our own gardens, as well as offer exciting new plant selections.

Trends are transitory and if we slavishly follow the trends we could well end up with gardens that are merely historical representations of the fads down the years.  Picks for 2011 lists will be replaced with plant picks for 2012.  Should the “old hat” 2011 selection be pulled up to make room for the new?

The best gardens are the ones that give us joy and satisfaction because they are a reflection of own personal aesthetic and therefore uniquely ours.

chamaecyparis pisifera aurea

A Rant On Weeping Plants

I work at a nursery because I love plants. But not all plants. I have always had this thing against weeping plants. It’s not just middle age angst about all things drooping. Why these pendulous plants have been so carefully selected and cultivated from chance seedlings has always been a mystery to me. Their hang-dog, trailing habit consistently saddens me. I love Salix, Japanese Maples, Betulas (Birch), Picea (Spruce), Malus (Crabapple), just as long as they are the upright forms! I enjoy my Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’, but not when it is covered in dreary, drooping catkins! Combine mustard yellow with the weeping form and you get my least favourite weeping plant – Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Aurea’ (Golden Threadleaf  Cypress). And they are everywhere in Victoria! And what is it about Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ (Blue Atlas Cedar) anyways? Brontosaurus in a long skirt? And although I adore ornamental grasses, I have even been known to get out there with my scissors when the Carex testacea or Stipa tenuissima blooming stems trail forever along the ground.

The weeping form also bothers me because I don’t know how to use it in the garden. I always think shape first when I am choosing plants and re-working the many, not-quite-right parts of my garden. I love to use mounding, arching or prostrate forms to soften edges, contrast with verticals or provide horizontal interest, but I am confounded by the pendulous. Even the comical, autumnal look of the weeping dwarf Crabapple, dotted with bright red apples along bare trailing stems in a lovely glazed container makes me melancholy and wonder why.

One of the neatest things about plants is the emotions they can evoke. And one of the neatest things about working in a nursery is hearing about all the different ways people feel about their plants. Tell me how you have used weeping plants to great effect. You probably won’t change my mind, but maybe I will stop weeping when I see them.


Seedy Saturday in Victoria


This year was Victoria’s 18th annual Seedy Saturday and my 2nd. Upon entering the Conference Centre there was an unmistakable buzz in the air, and it wasn’t the mason bees getting ready to burst forth from their cocoons. It was the people: the volunteers, the vendors and the public. Everyone was excited to be there, and people were lined up out the door. There were so many vendors with a plethora of amazing products from seeds and bees to asparagus and Jujube trees, something for everyone.

One thing I noticed more than anything else was the sharing of information.

Nicole and Brian at Seedy Saturday

This open friendly sharing of knowledge is one of the major reasons I decided to stay in Victoria. I’ve never seen or felt a sense of competition, only witnessed everyone wanting success for everyone else.  And that’s what I saw at Seedy Saturday, a group of like-minded people striving to connect to the earth in whatever way they could and wanting to pass that connection on to others.

Seedy Saturday is a fun and important gathering that gets everyone excited and supports a growing movement to a better more sustainable way of living.