Occasionally, my wife becomes “disturbed” about one thing or the other in the garden, usually that plants are flopping over and obstructing the stone paths that wander through the garden. I learned long ago that telling her not to come outside doesn’t work, and after a period of inaction on my part she usually threatens to remedy the problem herself. Several times I’ve come around the corner to find her armed, pruners in hand, and this is my cue to do something, anything to keep her from mutilating the unfortunate branches that have strayed.
A year ago I tackled the problem of the path that runs along the southern edge of the house that had vanished beneath huge hostas, tall nandinas that arched over, and a prickly mahonia that had grown in width to snag any passersby. I split and transplanted the hostas so that they are now half the size, and the offending branches of the nandinas and mahonia (below) were pruned so that the change in form is hardly noticed. The fix has improved the situation to some extent, but it is made much easier since my wife seldom ventures in this direction.
Now, she has expressed her concern that the driveway is disappearing. Both of us drive small cars, and I’ll admit that to reach the top of the drive requires veering a bit to the right around the Jane magnolia and fernspray cypress, then left to avoid the Japanese maple. Somewhere in there the caryopteris has strayed onto the asphalt, and I haven’t pruned the needlepoint ivy since I don’t when, though it’s the smallest part of the “problem”. Not that I think that it’s a problem at all, and I see some advantage in dissuading delivery trucks from even attempting to pull into the driveway.
A disadvantage is that the tree service and landscape clean up guys who go door-to-door make a beeline to our house, figuring there’s a goldmine in this obviously out-of-control garden. When I tell them that I do what they do, but I’ve been a little busy, they shake their head and hike back through the jungle to their truck. The truth is, I’m not too busy, I just don’t like a manicured garden, and I don’t mind brushing past wet branches or evil, thorny mahonias when I stroll through the garden.
Perhaps a few things have been planted too close to the paths, and others have grown more vigorously than I expected, but this isn’t a formal garden. If you visit expecting to see fine stonework with plants that gently taper to the path’s edge, you’ll be disappointed. I’ve taken care to construct the paths artfully in only a few areas, and most of the paths are stones randomly placed one after the other with no idea that anyone would care to look at anything but the plants.
Most often visitors stick to the few slate patios that are good vantage points for a general overview of the garden without expending too much effort (or shedding blood) to explore more deeply. Parts of the garden are accessed only by passing through ankle deep muck, and I’ve considered adding stepping stones through to these areas, but I’m the only person who’s been back there in years, so why bother? I don’t care if I carry a bit of mud back up to the house, and it’s rare that I don’t clean my work sandals before going inside. If I drag a bit of the garden into the house, that’s real trouble.