Photo by Melody

Garden, How Do I Love Thee?

By Marie Harrison (can2growAugust 7, 2012

Gardening picture
Open Spaces

Many times when we consider what is pleasing about our gardens, we forget the importance of open spaces. These spaces give the eyes and mind a rest and make us more able to absorb the complexities of the garden. Something about wide-open spaces is restful to the human eye. I’m reminded that not every square inch of space has to be covered and appreciative of the restful blanks that provide uncluttered mind space.

Unifying Elements

Without something to unify the diverse elements in the garden, it might appear to be a mess of the jumblies. In a pleasing space, components must fit together and seem to belong. Unifying elements in my garden include the broad expanse of lawn and its curving borders, pathways that lead from one place to the other and direct traffic and the eye, and the ever present pine needles and leaves that carpet the ground of all planted areas. 
Transition from one element to another is provided by strategic placement of plants that lead the eye gradually from tiny groundcovers up through the various levels and heights provided by flowering annuals and perennials, shrubs, small trees, and sky-scraping giants. All facets of the garden become part of a unified whole. The thumbnail picture shows just a bit of the open spaces and other unifying elements in my garden.
Contrasting Elements

While I am careful to incorporate unifying elements into the garden, it is the contrasts that offer interest and excitement. Large leaves are larger when compared with small. A pink flower nestled in the green of its leaves and the surrounding vegetation become pinker. A dark leaf is made darker when seen beside a brightly colored leaf. Garden ornaments offer welcome accents and whimsy that contrast with the sameness of a field of green. 
Contrasts are the spice, and like spices added to our food, just enough to add the desired flavor is the right amount. Too much spice renders the food inedible or the garden too complicated and confusing.
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Plant Collections

Those of us who are hortimaniacs are avid plant collectors. Our favorite place to go is the nursery, and our favorite reading materials are gardening catalogs, books and magazines. Our gardens must accommodate all our botanical finds as well as Grandmother’s rose, Aunt Lois’s hydrangea, and myriad plant gifts from friends. It is these that make our gardens personal and of lasting interest to ourselves and others. Careful inclusion of the unifying elements mentioned previously allows for greater diversity.

Irresistible edible treats abound in my garden. What pleasure it is to pluck and eat a fresh fruit or vegetable on the spot! Fruits of one kind or another are available almost year round. Grapefruit, satsumas, loquat, figs, scuppernongs, blueberries, and kumquats are part of the smorgasbord. Salad greens and an assortment of herbs are available for the picking. Even flowers such as pansies, nasturtiums, borage, and squash blossoms find their way to the table. Such is the life of a gardener. (sigh)

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Year-Round Interest

Never is there a time when something is not in bloom or when a plant-lover’s garden holds nothing of interest. Summer and fall flowers abound, and in winter hardy annuals, camellias, and evergreens decorate the spaces. Many of us enjoy the winter when some plants are dormant and the garden seems at rest. Then we’re excited when the trilliums and summer snowflakes arise from their wintry beds. The garden that changes with the seasons offers delights at all times of the year, and these delights are ever changing and engrossing to the observer.

Birds, butterflies, squirrels, box turtles, myriad bugs, and anoles and lizards of assorted kinds keep Amiable Spouse and me entertained with their activities. Birds make nests in strategic places. We watch as the parents feed their babies, and we rejoice when the fledglings finally emerge. Butterflies metamorphose from tiny eggs to caterpillars and then to winged beauties, and we are there to witness the miracle. Box turtles find lunch underneath the fig tree and scuppernong vine, hummingbirds zip from flower to flower, and squirrels chatter and chase each other along their aerial highway. A. Spouse and I take our books to the back porch each evening, but we seldom read. Our attentions are diverted by the goings-on in the garden.  

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My garden is a place that I share with friends and family. It’s where I test my new acquisitions and where I spend many happy hours planting, digging, and dividing plants. Never one to throw away a good plant, the extras are potted up to share with friends or to offer at the next garden club plant sale. Sharing cuttings, extra seedlings, and pots of extra plants is one way we place something of ourselves into friends' gardens and into the community. Each of our “sharings” brings us closer to people and makes us a part of their gardens, and with their gifts to us, they become a part of ours. Gardening binds people together in a way that few other activities can.

  About Marie Harrison  
Marie HarrisonServing as a Master Flower Show Judge, a Floral Design Instructor, instructor of horticulture for National Garden Clubs, and a University of Florida Master Gardener immerses me in gardening/teaching activities. In addition to these activities, I contribute regularly to Florida Gardening magazine and other publications. I am author of four gardening books, all published by Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida. Read about them and visit me at

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