My wife objects to a spreading liriope (Liriope spicata) that creeps into gaps between path stones. She makes a point to squash them, figuring this will encourage me to dig them out, and while this temporarily makes them unsightly, this barely inhibits their growth. My standards are not so high that a momentarily disfigured plant is a bother. Certainly, this liriope is one I’m not particularly fond of, but it spreads at a moderate pace to cover ground and keep weeds to a minimum. Yes, I occasionally pull clumps that pop up in the paths, but they’re not much of a problem to my thinking. Filling gaps or flopping to soften hard surfaces is good, I think, but she regularly prowls the garden, pruners in hand to thwart such invasions.
There is no doubt that my wife and I have different concepts of what the garden should be. She prefers more order, and I adore the chaos of neighbors colliding with one another, as long as each has space to be seen. I am thrilled when a seedling comes up through a clump of something, with accidental groupings often topping my best efforts.
This garden has not been constructed according to a grand design, but cobbled together over three decades, and while I don’t recommend this course for anyone else, it seems to have worked here. No doubt, some might cringe as the canopy of a dogwood merges with a Japanese maple (then to a serviceberry), and tall deciduous azaleas (below) with brightly colored and fragrant blooms wind between branches of a variegated redbud.
Here, there is no repetition, no massing, and perhaps this is chaotic to the eye, but a neighbor visiting recently remarked the garden made him want to do yoga (and he doesn’t). I am not tempted, but the garden is a place to relax, to contemplate, and to wonder. Yes, there are flowers every day of the year, but my eye is often captured by contrasts of texture and foliage colors that are occasionally planned but often accidental. If art, rather than mere accident, is involved in the design of this garden, it is in the lack of structure, and while there are stone paths and patios scattered throughout, unmanicured plants are the focus.