In East Texas Gardens
It’s said that the only constant is change, and nowhere is that more evident than in a garden.
Sometimes change comes as part of a plan. When I bought my property, there was nothing growing besides the oaks and pines. In some areas I let natives fill in – like beautyberry, Carolina buckthorn and frostweed. In other areas I grew tough-as-nails bulbs and tubers like crinum, cannas, and four o’clocks. These plants grew without care, and I had blooming plants instead of bare white sand. As the years passed, I was able to improve the soil and irrigate the bed, and so it was time to relocate the pioneer plants to another new area.
Sometimes change comes from the plants maturing, outgrowing their place in the garden. One of my favorite sayings about perennials is that “the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, third year they leap.” No one bothers to warn you what happens in years four, five, and beyond – sometimes they explode. I’ve planted southern wood fern shared by a dear gardening friend; that fern was very happy to spread to cover an entire bed. In another area I planted cashmere bouquet, a butterfly favorite that has traveled from one garden to the next, under paths and edging alike. The purple salvia that I found mislabeled at a local nursery was supposed to be about two feet tall; instead it has topped out at almost five feet. Most spreading plants are easy enough to dig out and divide, and you’ll be delighted at the “new” garden area that you have for more plants.
Sometimes change comes from within. I’m more of a plant collector than a garden designer, and if I like a plant, I find that I collect many different varieties for my gardens. So my beds will have maybe eight different lilies, or a dozen types of salvia, or 10 angel trumpets. But my favorites change year over year, so my collections no longer bring me joy. Luckily I have many garden friends who will provide a new home to an old favorite, leaving me a spot for a new obsession.
And finally, sometimes change is thrust upon us. Deer finally discover your plants and devour your deer-proof garden. An armadillo noses around your irrigated bed and uproots your plantings while you’re on vacation. Mosaic virus spreads through your crinum collection, resulting in plants that must be destroyed. Faced with these or similar tragedies, the gardener must respond, must rebuild. The Wood County Arboretum & Botanical Gardens was almost entirely destroyed by feral hogs in 2017 – 10 years of work destroyed in 10 weeks. But the beds that have been rebuilt (bigger and better) reflect the optimism of determined gardeners.
Remember as you’re working in your garden that it will never be static, it is always growing. With growth comes change, in your life and in your East Texas garden.