It grows where it will

The following is a reprint of the March 9, 2006, From the Edge.

I’m a low-level gardener. In fact, I’m not sure I should even call myself a gardener at all. I plant things and water things, and now and then I dig something up. As much as anything, I interfere.

I’m not rigid, like some gardeners. If a volunteer really wants to grow in my yard, I’ll let it. It’s got to pick the right place, because nobody’s likely to walk around it, but I don’t care that I didn’t plant it there. Some gardeners are offended by volunteer plants—everything has to be planned and purchased or personally propagated. Not in my yard.

When we lived in Minnesota, I seldom cut the grass at all, and when I did, I cut around the ox-eye daisies and goat’s beard and fleabane. Our lawn was scrubby grass punctuated by soaring flowering plants, and the blue swaths of creeping Charlie were stunning in the spring.

Early on, I decided to return most of our yard to wilderness. Never mind the Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club and the rest. I started right there on Sheridan Avenue, and we even had rabbits in our brush pile.

When I planted Lamium and Campanula by the back fence here in Chico last fall, I was just giving them a shot at the patch near the once-and-future shed. From what I’ve read, they should both like it there, and I gave them their chance. So far, they both look fine, but if the Campanula flourishes and the Lamium doesn’t, so be it. Likewise vice versa. I neglect them equally.

That’s the main thing. Plants pretty much have to be able to hack it on their own in my garden. I water things fairly regularly in the summer, but I don’t do much fertilizing past a bag of manure now and then and—someday before I die—my own compost.

Now that the sod we bought when we moved in has found the spots it can tolerate and given up on the rest, the backyard is starting to look like a landscape—three or so kinds of grasses, in addition to the purple fountain grass that seems to have settled in nicely. Diversity is us.

I have high hopes for the California poppies I flung about a while back, and the rogue rose bushes that came with the house are indomitable. I fully expect them to recover from my pruning.

And last year I made my ultimate environmental adjustment—I accepted the squirrels. I don’t feed them, but I don’t squirt them with the hose, either. Tensions in my yard have eased considerably, and that’s a good thing. Peace is its own reward.