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To stake, or not to stake. That is the question
by Eleanor Tylbor
by Eleanor Tylbor


Eleanor Tylbor has been a freelance writer and columnist for more than twenty years. A resident of Laval, Quebec, Canada, she began her career as a columnist writing for weekly papers and continues to freelance a column covering local news for “The Chomedy News.”

She has also freelanced articles for Internet sites in addition to providing human-interest pieces for various dailies, and is a monthly contributor to the site, sharing her humorous observations and gardening-angst with gardening aficionados.

She is now into balcony gardening.

Blog The (Somewhat) Complete Gardener

July 7, 2002

Alright. I'll admit to having my own particular style of gardening, but that doesn't make it any less visually appealing. In summing up the style, one could - and I do - call it ... individual ... maybe even eclectic ... working with Mother Nature as opposed to fighting-the-inevitable. In other words, allowing the plants to grow when, where and how they want.

Do I sound defensive? Well, I am and with good reason.

One root of the problem so to speak, is a bed of iris's growing freely on the side of the house, dependent on the brick wall for support. As flowering plants, iris's, in my humble opinion have an arty nature, and will bend in every which way the wind blows. They start out in an upright position but invariably their stalks' end up at a forty-five degree angle. To be candid - this pleases me no end. My attitude in as far as this specie is concerned is "be free my floral friends, and seek your own level!"

There are "those" that I call the neat-freaks, who advocate the elegant and somewhat lanky blooms should be harnessed and tied down, for their own good. 

"Why don't you stake them?" a passing neighbor asked, while I worked the soil. "They'll look a lot neater!"

"I'm not into neat," I responded, matter-of-factly. "They'll look like any other flower, when they're not."

It was at the ten-minute point of my dissertation focusing on the importance of not tying plants down, that I realized I was talking to myself and the neighbor had slunk home. There's nothing worse (or boring) than a gardener on a roll about a garden.

In another section of the same garden bed, are four healthy hollyhock plants with bursting buds, on the verge of opening. Last year's crop produced a mix of light pink and white blooms, that was the talk of the neighborhood. Early in the summer we go through the same routine, with family members suggesting that they are in fact, weeds, and require removal. Bear in mind that these are the same people who raved on about their gorgeous color and appearance last season.

"Those are big weeds you're growing," one member, who shall remain nameless, suggested.

"Yeah - I told her the same thing," Mr. non-gardener hubby agreed. "Go get me the garden shears," he went on, "I'll take care of the problem." Then they all laughed, pointing at the towering and vulnerable hollyhocks. 

Make a note in garden diary: hide the shears.

The rock garden is also a focal point of dissent, being that I believe the garden should be filled to overflowing with plants spilling on to and over the large stones. A neighbor who has a beautiful if structured rock garden, insists that it require a thorough thinning out. She's probably right but then it would look so...mundane and...normal. Half the excitement in gardening, for me anyway, is not knowing what the end result of one's effort will be. 

Recently, after twenty years of extensive growth and in spite of frequent pruning, it was obvious the spreading McIntosh apple tree required an extensive trimming. After eliminating the dwarf apple tree a few years ago (don't ask!) the larger tree took over the space that the smaller tree once had. We decided to call in the services of a professional tree trimmer, after Mr. non-gardener hubby sprained an ankle falling out of a low branch a while back, trying to do the job himself. Somehow, it was a little disconcerting when the professional tree trimmer showed up to assess the trimming job at 9 p.m. at night, but this problem was solved after putting a little light on the subject via the back porch light. Two trimmers showed up the next day, chain saw in hand and I couldn't watch the massacre. In my mind every high pitch squeal as saw met wood, was a cry of pain emitted by the tree. Surveying the job once they left, the tree looked like a shadow of its former self, to say the least. The long graceful branches with lush foliage that were resting stops for visiting birds, had been turned into barren pieces of jutting wood with some clinging leaves, hanging on for dear life.

"So, why you killing the tree?" our ex-gardener, Giuseppe, asked, while passing by. 

"It needed a good pruning," I answered, "but then you should know about those things."

This was the same person who took things into his own hands, mowing down what he believed to be misplaced rose bushes.

For a few months of the year, we can experience the joy of being one with the earth, of digging in and feeling the soil between our fingers. And if my iris's want to lean - who am I to stop them? 

(ELEANOR TYLBOR is a freelance humor writer, houseplant raiser and aspiring gardener living in Laval, Quebec, who welcomes comments at:




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