What Is Your Gardening Style?

Barbara Brand
Adams County Master Gardener

As a Master Gardener, I often hear people begin our conversation with this statement: "Iím not really a gardener, butÖ" My response to that is, "Everyone is some kind of gardener!" As we approach the time of year when our gardens are slowing down, it might be fun to sit back and try to discover how our gardens reflect our gardening style.

If you are the type of gardener that everyone describes as having a Green Thumb, then chances are you are a Dirt Gardener. You are happiest in your garden all year round, and in making plans for each new season of bloom and growth. You have a pair of Wellington boots and a Big Hat, and you might own a pair of gloves. You are out in the early spring getting your beds cleaned up (of course, you already did your fall clean-up, but you canít be too careful) and getting your tools and equipment ready for the new season. You add your own composted soil to your beds and you add amendments according to your Penn State Soil Test results. Once your plants are in the ground, you go out in all kinds of weather every day to weed, fertilize and tend your plants. You divide and transplant your darlings, and if you donít move them into another new bed you just created, you share them with friends and family. You are a daily dead-header. Your vegetable garden is organized for continuous production, and you constantly monitor your plants for bugs and diseases. You also monitor your rain gauge religiously, you water using drip hoses, and your rain barrel is in constant use. In the Fall, you clean out your annuals, trim your perennials, and prepare your gardens for the slumber time of winter. Your "off season" is spent reviewing your successes and failures, and in making plans for next year.

Whew, just writing all that made me exhausted!

If you are like most people, though, you are "way too busy" for that level of involvement. For you, a garden is important, if not essential, to your home environment. You are a Fair Weather (in the best sense) Gardener, who recognizes that you have only so much time to spend tending your garden, and you like to Keep It Simple. Your garden has shrubs and perennials, and these require minimal, if any, maintenance. You add annuals in the spring and chrysanthemums in the fall, to give color and low-maintenance interest to your home environment. What time you can spare to spend in your garden is golden time for you, and it rewards you with beauty and enjoyment every day.

Does neither one of these types really describe you as a gardener? Never fear, there are many variations of gardening styles!

There is the lucky person who gardens almost by accident. You are a Zen Gardener, who doesnít know how it works, but it really works for you. The plants you put in donít have a lot of attention, and you put them in whatever space is available, but they thrive and bloom in abundance. You water when you remember it, you donít use fertilizer, and you still have a garden that is the envy of your neighbors.

Do you love color in your garden? Color is everywhere, and it doesnít matter if the blooms clash or harmonize. You are an Artistic Gardener who fills garden beds with plants that are in luscious bloom from seasonís beginning to seasonís end. Climbing roses, flowering shrubs, ground covers, annuals and perennials Ė all these contribute to the Riot of Color in your garden. You add more splashes of color with garden art, and there are mobiles and chimes that give a soothing aspect to your garden environment.

If you choose plants and shrubs according to how they will provide for your feathery and furry friends, you are a Friendly Gardener. Your garden plan is focused on the birds, bees, and fauna that inhabit your environment. You select native plants for food and cover, and include a water feature in your garden. The plants in your garden are chosen to attract beneficial creatures. You watch for the arrival of birds, butterflies, hummingbirds and pollinators each year, and you get really excited when you discover a Praying Mantis egg sack or a Monarch chrysalis!

There are people who love to study the nursery catalogues each year, searching for something to add to their gardens Ė and itís got to be NEW. If this is you, you are an Experimental Gardener, and you arenít happy unless you find something that will add an exotic and exciting punch to your garden beds. Even in our Zone 6b environment in southern Pennsylvania, you have the knack of finding something from a tropical or more temperate climate that will happily thrive in your garden.

But what if you donít have a garden? If a small patio or balcony is as close as you can get to nature, then you might be a Container Gardener. You use containers large and small, on shelves or stands, draped over the railing, and perched on tables to brighten your outdoor environment. Shade or sun, it doesnít matter, you have found a way to enjoy green, growing and colorful plants.

The apartment dweller may also need growing things around them, and if this describes you, you are an Indoor Gardener. House plants are your salvation and your joy, and you have a wide variety of foliage and flowering plants. If you are fortunate, you have a large window that gives just the right kind of light for your plants, and they give you color, beauty and interest all year long. You have the added benefit of your plantsí aspiration to improve the air quality of your home.

You might be thinking right now, "None of these describes me Ė I kill everything I touch." Then you are most likely a Desperate Gardener, who, in spite of failures, keeps on trying! Rest assured there are plants out there that will grow and prosper in your garden no matter what you do to them. Donít give up, and one day you will meet up with the right plants, and you will be hooked for life.

Did you find a little bit of yourself in one or two or more of these descriptions? Then you, my friend, really are a Gardener!

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