A Collector's Garden
Second in a series on the gardens of our 2020 Bloomin’ Backyards Garden Tour
A Collector’s Garden
How do you take a yard with weed-filled grass and cement block pathways to a mature, elegant, feast for the senses? To understand, read our interview with Master Gardener Jan. You can also see the results on the 2020 Bloomin’ Backyards garden tour on May 17.
Master Gardeners: How did you begin?
Jan: We moved into this house in 1976 and we’ve been working on the garden ever since. Fortunately, my husband Don is an engineer and was able to do all the hardscaping: brick patios, planter beds, fencing, a raised deck and hot tub. We started by digging out the lawn (Bermuda grass), watering, and then weeding for days. Then we brought in a truck load of topsoil.
MG: How do you select your plants?
Jan: The short answer is “if it catches my eye, I buy it.” I have to stay small because space is limited. Nowadays, I make sure I have a place to put the new plants in the ground. I admit, in the beginning, I bought more plants than I had space for, and they would sit in pots. I look for shape, texture, and color. I have had success with growing succulents and conifers together. I guess you’d say I look for something that surprises me, something unique, new, or different.
MG: When you travel, do you look for plants?
Jan: Absolutely! I’m always browsing and we visit nurseries every time we go on vacation. Last June we participated in the American Conifer Society’s “Conefest” at the 80-acre Oregon Garden in Silverton, Oregon, with over 20 specialty gardens and four miles of paths. We also had access to a few private nurseries and the commercial Iseli Nursery, which specializes in conifers. I came home with new ideas and several treasures to plant at home.
MG: How do you maintain your garden?
Jan: Well drip irrigation is of course key. We have drip lines to almost everything, including baskets. I water on average between five – 20 minutes, three times per week. I keep a calendar for fertilizing the pots, usually once a month. I do a lot of experimenting, so we are often moving plants around for aesthetic reasons. When plants get too big, I pull them out. I keep some plants such as citrus, Japanese maples, geraniums, and camelias in pots so I can move them based on sun or frost. I have an aesthetic pruner come in once a year. I use vinegar on weeds.
MG: It all sounds like a lot of work. Why do you enjoy it so much?
Jan: It’s therapy for me. It’s calming and there’s a sense of peace and contentment that I enjoy. If I’m having a bad day, I go to a nursery.
MG: “What’s the best advice you can give other gardeners?
Jan: Plant placement. Right plant, right place!