Nature’s way brings elements of the natural world together into relationship.
Rarely will you find just one of anything-
It is our human sensibility which wants to bring order from the “chaos” of nature by sorting, classifying, isolating, and perhaps eliminating elements of our environment.
Nature teaches the wisdom of strength through unity and relationship.
Gardens in medieval Europe were often composed primarily of lawns, shrubs, and trees.
This is still fashionable in American gardens today. But it is a high maintenance and sterile way to garden.
I won’t bore you with a re-hash of the arguments for and against lawns… but will only say that wildflowers of all sorts find a home in ours.
And I’m not an advocate of allowing every wild plant to grow where it sprouts, either. There are some plants which definitely are not welcome in our garden, or are welcome in only certain zones of it.
But in general, I prefer allowing plants to grow together in communities, weaving together above and below the soil, and over the expanse of time throughout a gardening year.
A simple example would be interplanting peonies with daffodils. As the daffodils fade, the peonies are taking center stage.
Another example is allowing Clematis vines to grow through roses; or to plant ivy beneath ferns.
Like little children hugging one another as they play, plants enjoy having company close by.
When you observe nature you will see related plants growing together in some sort of balance.
And you’ll find wild life of all descriptions interacting with the plants as part of the mix.
When planning your plantings, why not increase the diversity and the complexity of your pot or bed and see what beautiful associations develop?
Now please don’t think that Woodland Gnome is suggesting that you leave the poison ivy growing in your shrub border.
Although poison ivy is a beautiful vine and valuable to wildlife, our gardens are created for our own health and pleasure. So we will continue to snip these poisonous vines at the base whenever we find them.
But what about honeysuckle? Is there a “wild” area where you can allow it to grow through some shrubs? Can you tolerate wild violets in the lawn?
The fairly well known planting scheme for pots of “thriller, filler, spiller” is based in the idea that plants growing together form a beautiful composition, a community which becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
I like planting several plants in a relatively big pot; allowing room for all to grow, but for them to grow together.
This is a better way to keep the plants hydrated and the temperature of the soil moderated from extremes of hot and cold, anyway.
But this also works in beds.
Choose a palette of plants, and then work out a scheme for combining a repetitive pattern of these six or ten plants over and again as you plant the bed. Include plants of different heights, growth habits, seasons of bloom, colors and textures.
So long as you choose plants with similiar needs for light, moisture, and food this can work in countless variations.
This is Nature’s way, and it can add a new depth of beauty to your garden.
It can also make your gardening easier and more productive.
It is important to observe as the plants grow.
If one is getting too aggressive and its neighbors are suffering, then you must separate, prune, or sacrifice one or another of them.
Planting flowers near vegetables brings more pollinating insects, increasing yields.
Planting garlic or onions among flowers has proven effective in keeping deer and rabbits away from my tasty flowering plants.
Planting deep rooted herbs such as Comfrey, Angelica, and Parsley near other plants brings minerals from deep in the soil to the surface for use by other plants.
Use the leaves from these plants in mulch or compost to get the full benefit.
Planting peas and members of the pea family in flower or vegetable beds increases the nitrogen content of the soil where they grow, because their roots fix nitrogen from the air into the soil.
Planting Clematis vines among perennials or roses helps the Clematis grow by shading and cooling their roots.
The Clematis will bloom and add interest when the roses or perennials are “taking a rest” later in the season.
Just as our human relationships are often based in helping one another, so plants form these relationships, too.
The more you understand how plants interact with one another, the more productive your garden can become.
It is Nature’s way…
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014