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The Quixotic Garden

By Susanne Talbert (art_n_gardenJanuary 5, 2009

Iíve been contemplating themed gardens in lieu of my random mish-mash of plants recently. Generally, if I like a plant Iíll buy it, whether or not I have a place for it and it definitely never crosses my mind if the plant would look good in my existing landscape.

Gardening picture



This practice has led to some very odd combinations like castor beans paired with irises and rue.  Even I didn't really get that one.  Or then there's the chives, hardy banana, and daylily corner of my perennial bed.  This combination, besides looking comical, creates a tactical problem for care and watering regimens.


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So to prevent my eclectic taste from getting the better of me next year, I'm going to make some plans.  My plans will still allow me to be random and choose plants for my assorted taste, but maybe I can hone into the gardens of my mind's eye.

Since I can't narrow my taste down to one type of plant like iris or daylily, and I can't really even narrow it down to something as broad as tropical or cottage, I'm going to have to find a broader brush with which to paint my predilection.   If any of this sounds familiar to you, maybe some of my ideas could be of interest to you.     

The Quixotic Garden

If you're not familiar with the word quixotic it is a wonderful word to add to your lexicon.  Pronounced kwik-ˈsä-tik, it is derived from the fanciful character Don Quixote from Cervantes' classic novel.  It can mean idealistic, impulsive, and obsessed with the romantic all at once; foolishly impractical (1).  If that doesn't describe most gardeners to some extent, I don't know what word can.

The Quixotic Garden would be a place where my castor beans and rue could harmoniously compliment the other odd plants I am drawn to.  This will be a garden, read "one specific place," where I can put all the weird plants I pick up.   Obviously your Quixotic Garden could be different, but here's what mine would, could, and very well might look like. 

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From left to right, top to bottom: ornamental oregano, spider-flowered daylily 'Aabachee', nasturtium 'Alaska',  Justicia carnea Brazilian plume flower, castor bean, Martagon lily, peacock lily, Scots moss, voodoo lily Dracunculus vulgaris, fennel, northern sea oats, iris 'Pass the Wine,' Stokes aster, rue, exotic love vine, hardy banana Musa basjoo. And below: strawberry foxglove, citronella plant, blood lily, and snapdragon . 

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The Quixotic Garden is not about having the weirdest plants out there, although the voodoo lily would probably qualify for that list, it is about making room for every plant that makes your heart happy.  Throw out conventional thinking and put in the plants that you want.  There is no size requirement and definitely no color scheme besides any color goes.  Mix your herbs and your veggies in with your perennials.  Mix tropicals with alpines and summer bulbs with cottage garden standards.  Be a little wary of sun and water requirements, though, since you can't really be "foolishly impractical" if your plants are frying.  Most every plant I am drawn to is for sun, so my plants for the Quixotic Garden thrive in full sun.  If I find a shade plant I want to use, I can tuck it in under the castor bean or the banana. 

Hopefully you can have some fun this winter dreaming about and planning your gardens.  If none of what's in your head jives with the conventional wisdom on gardening, don't fret.  There are other quixotical gardeners out there just like you. 


Special thanks to these contributors to the PlantFiles:

Fennel - BaaNorther sea oats - Hczone6 Nemesia, Orostachys, Licorice Plant - art_n_garden
Voodoo Lily - cloudiaMoney Plant - JerseyGardener1Castor bean thumbnail - art_n_garden
Rue - DebbyStokes aster - luvsgrtdanesJacobinia - jnana
Nasturtium - EmilyrasmusDaylily - MartyJo Castor bean - tcfromky
Martagon lily - GalanthophileFoxglove - mn102Cleome - Sarahskeeper
Ornamental Oregano - GardenGuyKin Iris - NakiheeBanana - Paolotakeru 
Snapdragon - art_n_garden  Exotic love vine - art_n_garden Acidanthera - art_n_garden 
Citronella Plant- darylBlood lily - timrann Scots Moss - art_n_garden



  About Susanne Talbert  
Susanne TalbertI garden in beautiful Colorado Springs, half a mile from Garden of the Gods. Since we bought our first house two years ago, I have been busy revamping my 1/4 acre of ignored decomposed granite. My garden passions include water gardening, vines, super-hardy perennials, and native xerics. By day, I am a high school ceramics teacher as well as a ceramicist and painter.

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