Thursday, October 1, 2009

What style of garden?

Are you primarily an ornamental gardener, or do you prefer yard space to be 95% edible garden? We have been both - but for the first time in our gardening history, our primary focus is on food production. I have to say though, as determined as we are, we're not very good at it - not yet anyway.

And still a funny thing happened recently when I saw a particular plant on sale at the shops. Being the sucker I am for a "reduced" sticker, I couldn't resist this particular special either. Only it wasn't for an edible plant - it was an ornamental one.

I looked it over carefully; made sure the soil wasn't dry and had only a few spent leaves. For the $2 price tag, I have to say it was in great condition. However, I almost talked myself out of it. The "edible garden" blinkers were well and truly on. That all changed with one sniff. The familiar fragrance, suddenly drew me back to all those suburban backyards we'd ever lived in previously.

Who can walk past the Star Jasmine in bloom, and NOT recognise that familiar sweet scent? It was everywhere in our suburban lives in the past.

Star Jasmine or Trachelospermum jasminoides
Picture taken from the Gardening Australia fact sheet

Then it occured to me what has been missing in our gardening attempts here. Ornamentals! Not simply because they are ornamentals, but rather having transcended horticultural realms abruptly, we've suddenly felt uninspired by our poor results as food production gardeners.

We knew how to grow ornamentals however - more aptly put, ornamentals were forgiving to neglect and conditions no veg garden would ever tolerate. They were often prolific in bloom and put on a lot of growth in their first year. How long does it take a fruit tree to be as majestic? Oh, fruit trees are so worth the effort, once they've grown for several years, but in the meantime...

I'm not suggesting ornamentals are better than any edible garden, but they do make the transition more enjoyable. Why wallow in brown-thumb-itis when the corn succumbs to drought, or you forget to progressive sow to fill that empty space created from the harvest? Ornamentals fill those empty spaces, and keep growing long after the vegies have past their prime.

As gardeners, we need little reminders why we're doing what we're doing. Especially if gardening is being attempted in weather extremes, or starting from scratch with poor soils.

You may wonder why I would include "style" of a garden, in my land management series? After all, isn't that what lifestyle programs are for? I consider the style of a garden, the catalyst for drawing you into the garden in the first place. It's fine to make the primary concern habit for wildlife, reducing soil erosion, even attempting self-sufficiency - but it doesn't all have to be hard work.

If by incorporating a style you like (putting your personal stamp on it, so to speak) you are drawn into the garden more - then you're going to stick to it, even when everything else seems to go wrong.

Of course, it wouldn't be responsible if I didn't also include some timely reminders about some ornamentals. If they aren't a native, then they need monitoring and sensible stratagies to keep them in check. Be aware if they have weed status in your area, and take precautions. If they have an invasive root system, plant them inside a root guard. Make sure seeds can't be swept away by water run-off - and of course, don't position a highly flammable plant near the house, especially if you live in a bushfire prone area.

There is always the option of container planting too - if you're worried they may still get away on you. We have a german ivy, for example, which has travelled with us since we've been together. So that's about 11 years now. It's always lived in pots. At the moment I'm attempting to train it over an archway - and yes, it's still in a pot!

Now, the next plan is to find a suitable position for our Star Jasmine...


  1. Our garden is a mix of everything. Whilst I am passionate about being self sufficient, I also believe whilst the fruit and vegies are food for the body, beautiful ornamental plants can be food for the soul:)

  2. I love star jasmine too Chris, actually I like most scented plants. There's something transporting about jasmine, honeysuckle, roses, citrus blossom, crushed pineapple sage. Sometimes I trim a little off the lemon scented teatree when I'm mowing, just to run over it with the mower and get that lemon fix :) Yum.

  3. So true molly - food for the soul indeed!!

    I love pineapple sage too Em, but I've yet to successfully keep one alive, LOL. I think I may just have the right place for it, next time!

    Thank goodness there's always a next time. :)

  4. My garden was about 90% ornamental until a couple of years ago and I have gradually removed most of the lawn and some ornamentals until we are probably 60/40. Mainly because I am mindful that I am peculiar around here in growing food crops and that in a couple of years I will want to sell my house and hopefully get more land. I don't want to have to replace all the ornamentals because the estate agent says so.
    However this year I have also planted some flowering annuals because they look cheerful and attract bees.

  5. Star Jasmine is one of the most magical evergreen climbers and that's not just my opinion.

    The bees love it, the butterflies love it, the Hummingbird Hawk Moths love it and when he was old my dog Max used to sit for hours beside ours just soaking up the perfume.

    Molly's right, ornamentals are so good for the soul - who knows what beauty and perfume do to our creativity and our spirit and courage?

    If you have the space, don't hesitate to plant more "non-edibles". If you don't use them somebody else can.

  6. i think both can live side by side & when the veggie is a bit of a bummer you can walk around & soak up all the other green life & it makes you feel good

  7. My favourite annuals are sweet alyssum - the white ones. Which annuals did you manage to plant greenfumb? It's hard knowing what you should plant when you're thinking of moving on. Pebbles hide a multitude of sins, LOL, and we started container planting (on the pebbles) so we could take them with us. :) That was in our old house, before moving here.

    Nicole, we had the same sentiments back in suburbia, just when we started growing vegies - 95% of our garden was ornamental/native then. But somehow we forgot it was nice to have an established ornamental garden also. I guess there's something about land which says "produce something", but it's just nice to grow flowers too.

    Thanks for dropping by La Ferme, I remember your blue/purple clemitis growing up the chicken shed. Another beautiful climber.

    I've forgotten how much I like ornamental plants to make the walk in the garden more enjoyable. So I will definitely, look at incorporating them more. :)


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