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Designing and planting the wilderness garden.

If you have read about my landscaped perennial garden with its multiple undulating beds, rock-bordered theme plantings, treated timber grape arbor, the fish pond, and about the vegetable garden covered with hay, now I would like to introduce you to my most pleasurable gardens - my weed garden and miniwoods. These exist purely for their aesthetic value to me, in being able to watch closely the inexorable force of nature at work.

On the north side of my front yard, my father planted (about 35 years ago) a Burford holly hedge to border his vegetable garden. It is about 40 feet long, running north and south, and has grown to a monstrous height and width. It is home to many birds of all kinds that have, through the years, planted seeds of a dozen different kinds of trees in this hedge. A pine with tiny cones perfect for Christmas decorations grows low enough to reach and pushes skyward through the holly. A tall chinaberry tree showers fragrance and purple blooms in the spring. Two magnolias, and two dogwoods, among others, have created a small ecosystem. The rich red holly berries feed the birds and decorate my house at Christmas and the deep overhanging branches shelter my haystack on the garden side.

On the other side, between the hedgerow and the chainlink fence along the road, an area about 20 by 60 feet, is my miniwoods. This strip was last mowed 12 years ago and has, in that time, become a small area of natural planting. There are nine hickories, multiple oaks (including a liveoak), a blackgum, wild cherry, persimmon, a tung tree and two native English hollies with lots of red berries at Christmas. All the care this has required through the years is an annual weedeating to keep out the rattan sprouts. The briers and honeysuckle have long been shaded out.

Why a woods in my yard when we are surrounded by woods on an sides? It is interesting to watch the succession of nature's planting - from grass to wild-flower to tree - and to watch the growth rate of each individual tree. The ground is now covered with leaves and pine straw and completely shaded with a canopy of interlaced branches. A wooden bench entices relaxation when the children say, "Let's go listen for the birds, Grandma". And we sit quietly watching for movements in the leaves around us.

Also, when I am 95 years old and am unable to walk through my woods, my children can push me through my miniwoods in my wheelchair, only a few steps from the front door.

When you drive along the roads and highways and see all the masses of gorgeous wild flowers, do you ever stop and look closely at each individual flower? Do you observe all the different plants growing together, each adding its own hue and shade to the palette of color? Not many of us do that, but what a lot of pleasure we are missing!

Thus, the weed garden. A wide area of grassy yard offering nothing more interesting than a weekly mowing, is now bisected with a gently curved strip of weed garden about forty feet long and three to four feet wide, following the undulating path of running water. The turf was broken with several runs with the tiller in the spring of 1989. A four-foot cottonwood tree was planted at the lower end where water tends to bank up during heavy rains, and a tiny catalpa seedling was transplanted from the fence line to the middle of the row. A few roadside black-eyed Susans and blanket flowers and gay feathers were transplanted that first summer. Everything else has come up naturally as the result of not being mowed, being left to grow as nature decrees.

Now in its fourth summer, the weed garden offers an unending variety of plants and blooms. As I walk its borders almost daily, I observe an almost daily difference in its continuing evolution of growth. Each flower, some flamboyant, some almost microscopic, can be examined and marveled over. Each lush, unfamiliar plant offers an experience in guessing and waiting to see what it will produce.

It isn't an especially pretty garden and will not, I realize, appeal to everyone. But if you are a true gardener, in tune with the life and pulsation of this beautiful green Earth, you will appreciate the weed garden as it brings you closer to the natural life forces around us.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Ferguson, Mary C.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:746
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