All gardeners go through periods of time when their gardens suffer from neglect. For those of us who love beauty this only happens during times of duress such as illness or extended travel. However not everybody loves or enjoys gardening. The result? Some terrible sights.

When riding in the car I find myself looking not only for pretty garden sights but for horrible garden sights as well. What don't I like to see? Overgrown shapeless trees or evergreens that were planted years ago way too close to a foundation or to a window. The trees often lean away from the house to catch light. Frequently the roots are pushing out of the ground. Then there are the evergreen shrubs which are often taller than the house. They are ugly! It's time to say Good-bye. Now I want to confess to you that when we bought our new home 40 years ago we planted the requisite shrubs. After 20 years they were so big they hit the windows. I did spend time pruning them but eventually became frustrated. They were past saving. Jim got a come-along and yanked them out. What a relief! We brought in new soil and mixed in compost. We now have a spring bulb garden followed by perennials and annuals in the front of our property. Like all gardens this one will never be perfect or finished but it is beautiful in all seasons. Plus we can see out the windows!

I must also admit to disliking colored mulches. They just aren't natural looking. What is wrong with compost as a mulch? You don't have to rake it out in subsequent years because it will have become part of the soil. Simply add more each year. You will be feeding the soil organisms and they in turn will make nutrients available for your plants.

Then there are out of control vines. Don't get me wrong here. I love vines. They add interest and direct the eye upward. However vines can sneak under siding and discolor it. Before we knew better we planted not one but two Virginia creepers on the back of the house. They provided food, nesting material, and even a nesting place for birds. However they grew so fast that upon returning from a vacation we found Virginia Creeper growing under the window screens . I pruned these vines from the inside of the house where I ended up with huge piles of the vine in the upstairs bedrooms! We cut the vines down and Jim dug them out but it took three years before they were to be seen no more. Now we have Clematis vines growing on a porch trellis. One is Autumn Clematis. I rigorously cut it back in the spring and periodically prune it during the growing season. It can grow to thirty feet if unattended. Then there are the ivies, often chosen because they are easy to grow.. They are lovely but aggressive. If you don't want to prune them then please don't plant them.

I bet you know someone who says they want a natural look. This can be charming but don't confuse natural with neglected. Eventually meadow gardens need to be cut down and started again. Why? In the natural order of things weeds get carried in and will compete for both space and food. Eventually they can take over.

True gardeners are always learning something new. They find themselves questioning garden myths. My favorite garden myth is the one that says you should never water when the sun is full because the droplets of water will burn holes in the leaves (like a magnifying glass). Well watering overhead wastes water but it doesn't hurt the plants. I recently read in The Sciences that researchers actually tested this....... it is simply untrue. If you really want to learn more about garden myths involving plant disease cures or the feeding of plants read Jeff Gillman's The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn't and Why.

Forever Young Magazine - May 2010