Saturday November 29, 2008 Puttering in Helen’s Haven

With Thanksgiving behind me and rain in front of me, my puttering today consisted more of indoor than outdoor fun.  Although I did manage to steal an hour here and there this week to do the following:

  • Planted Red Tulips – Darwin Hybrid Apeldoorn in 2 pots in the garden: one in The Crinum Bed, the other in The Mixed Border.  Helen’s Haven is a hot colored garden, and nothing heats up the spring garden more than this tulip.  I like them in pots for the added height the pot provides, allowing me to see better from a distance.
  • Added another box in the front border shape I created last weekend…it needed just one more.
  • Had to move the variegated abelia to make room.  Now I’m happy with the placement of both.
  • Also moved another Veronica ‘Georgia’ so they could all be together.
  • Moved the Smith & Hawkin bench from the front to the back to an area where I was planning to put another fountain.  However, I’m holding out for a greenhouse and this area will be the entrance to the greenhouse.  When the time comes, it will be much easier to move a bench than a fountain.
  • Moved a black wrought iron bench from the back to the front.
  • Moved the big urn that was to become a fountain into The Mixed Border.  Not happy with where it is; will fry that fish another day.
  • Planted a bunch of bulbs I received from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs – a series they call Spanning Spring into Summer.  This will be a future post.
  • I did all this feeling puny.  My body aches.  I hope I’m not coming down with something.  My husband had sympathy for me yesterday, but this morning I got up to work in the garden, so even though I still feel puny, I realize I gave up my right to whine…it was worth it.

Then there was a project I’ve been putting off since I began gardening….I’m finally identifying all the plants in each of my gardens.    Several years ago, getting ready for a tour, I named my gardens and many of the plants in the beds, also creating labels for many of the plants.  But I still didn’t make a chart.

When I first started gardening seriously 35 years ago, I didn’t think it would matter, since I only cared about the overall design and if I liked the plant in the design.  I didn’t value the name.  When I got to the point that I DID value this, I was living in London and building a completely different garden then I would ever have back in the States.  As a sidebar, I really wish I had that plant list today, for sentiment, if nothing else.  When I gardened in Oakwood, again, I went back to valuing the design more than the plants.  As such, I felt that I couldn’t be burdened with knowing the cultivar of each.  Now that I garden in the garden where I raise my children, I think it’s time.  If ever I can expel some advice, it is to write the name down.  Even if you can’t remember it or pronounce it, have it on hand somewhere!

I wish someone gave me that advice.  Why I didn’t do way before now, is beyond me.  What I did do though, was keep all the plant labels in a shoe box…a big shoe box.

Today was the day I sorted through the shoe box and put the labels in a pile per garden…The Red Bed, The Office Border, The Herb Garden, The Back Porch One, The Back Porch Too, The Mixed Border, The Woodland Garden One, The Woodland Garden Too, The Crinum Bed, The Secret Garden, The Rose Garden, The Mailbox Garden.

It was Nancy Goodwin of Montrose (a project garden of the National Garden Conservancy), in Hillsborough, who taught me to name gardens.  Nancy makes a good point – it is so much easier to give direction of where to work by saying we will be working in the Mother-in-Law garden than to say the garden down the path, left of the big tree.  This way there is no confusion.  In fact I suggest to my clients to name their gardens.  First the challenge is to name their overall garden, then to name the individual gardens.  This way if they have something they want me to address, it makes it easy to communicate.

Just recently, my client was telling me not to plant Tulips in the bed up by the porch, but not the one in front of the path, but the one at the end of the front entrance.  Ah, you mean the Upper Container Bed?  This was the name I had given it.

It was at this point I suggested that it was time to name her garden.  Both an overall name, just because it’s fun to do, and each individual garden.  Not only does this help in communicating, but also elevates the status of the garden and makes it more personal.  My client reported it to be a difficult task, but glad she did.  She spends a lot of time in her garden and has created something special.  Naming it makes it personal.  I even went so far as to suggest getting stationary and note cards with a title something to the effect “From the garden of Jessamine Hill”  her new garden.  Why not?  So much of who she is is identified with her garden.  She is new to gardening (only 4 years), having raised two beautiful children and now a grandmother, she wanted to continue to nurture.  And nurture she does.  She is the best dead header I know!!!!!

I named my garden Helen’s Haven, but it’s really all our haven.  I get my name in the title since I’m the one that does the work.  It only seems fair.  My family agrees.



  1. tina said

    I did this just this past spring. Actually posted about it in “Memory Books”. Now I am smart and each plant I plant I now research and log in on my Excel spread sheet. It is such a great asset for the garden as I often forget. Good luck with yours! You’ll feel great once it is done.

  2. I’ll check out the most, Tina. What did you name your garden?

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