Column: What kind of gardener are you?

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and a creative non-fiction writing instructor with the University of Victoria.

  • Mar. 16, 2016 5:00 a.m.

This isn’t one of those tests about how many hours you have to spend in the garden, if you have pets, kids, like to water, entertain, and so on. Rather than asking what kind of garden you want, I think it’s important to figure out first what kind of gardener you are.

I’ll start with a personal story. I adore potentialities, which in gardening terms mean seeds, seedlings, and growing things quickly and intensely. I have a greenhouse now to cater to this predilection, and it was a greenhouse where I first felt at peace at 20, when I was hired by a herbalist to propagate plants. I puttered in the silence and became enraptured by small things – the miraculous rooting of cuttings, the emergence of true leaves, the beginnings of growth.

I’ve learned that I like rotation, change, harvests, and I live in climate that suits this: I can sow almost every month of the year. I’m a successionist you could say, a bit of a farmer at heart.

So what kind of gardener are you? For the sake of entertainment if not edification, let me characterize a few types:

The Cottage Gardener: When self-sown doesn’t mean you actually sowed it yourself, it’s good year. Surprise, abundance, perennials, colour—you can’t get enough (though you’ve been meaning to get more shrubs, right?). You view gardening as a process and are working on year-round colour. You’ve got a pair of gardening clogs by the back door. The words ‘trug’ and ‘dibbler’ have passed your lips.

The Designer: You’re good with form, abstraction, and spatial relationships. Perhaps you play an instrument, draw, or have a love of history. You believe that interior design should be reflected in the garden. Aesthetics inspire you. You’d choose to read a coffee table book over a seed catalogue. Your secret fear: using colour.

The Collector: You can’t turn an interesting plant down. If it was the 19th century, you’d have signed on to a botanical expedition. You appease yourself with collecting varieties of one genus or add to your stock by swapping with friends. No specialist catalogue is safe from browsing and you are desperately trying to say no to coffee dates at Demitasse because every time you go you leave with fabulous new plants. Your mantra (hoping this incantation will magically transform you into a designer): Plant in threes, fives, or sevens.

The Brown Thumb: You spend an inordinate amount of time weeding. You under-plant and under-hire, wondering why, when you buy so many bloody plants, you still have so many gaps in your beds. You don’t research as you know you should, or tend to your soil, but when pressed you do care, you really do; your garden is a problem to be solved. Your downfall: Buying ill-adapted, discount plants at Costco.

The Ecologist: A rare species of gardener, you derive pleasure from an understanding of natural systems and your commitment to native plants. Patience, attention to detail, and integrity fuel your conviction. Birds help too. You don’t hear these words often enough so I’ll say them here: Thank you.

The Perfectionist: Let’s take stock of the arsenal first: Leaf-blower, check. Mini-rake, check. Weed-killers, maybe. Not afraid to buy annuals en masse for instant colour, the Perfectionist doesn’t mind repetition, and is quick to fill in space. You’re practical, and see hardscaping as an integral part of your garden. Your mantra: Fail to plan, plan to fail.

I think most of us have a bit of all of these gardeners within us. I over-commit and under-perform just as much as the next person, and I also fall prey to hope, under-hiring and collecting. Perfectionism I sorely lack.

Thinking about the kind of gardener you are can help you play to your strengths and turn your shortcomings into assets. Gardens are living things and they should grow and change as we do.

So I should revise my question: What kind of gardener do you want to become?

 

 

 

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and a creative non-fiction writing instructor with the University of Victoria.

 

 

Just Posted

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

Flu season could last until May — Greater Victoria clinics offer flu shots

Vaccines are available through public health clinics, pharmacies and doctor’s offices

Remembering Nirvana in Victoria on Cobain’s 52 birthday

Nirvana played one show in Victoria on March 8, 1991 at the Forge

Watershed concerns prompt opposition to alternate Malahat routes

Motion submitted to Regional Water Supply Commission opposing highway in watershed

UPDATED: Langford homes evacuated after water main break

Break at the corner of Goldstream Avenue and Strathmore Road, several homes without water

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of Feb. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Searchers return to avalanche-prone peak in Vancouver to look for snowshoer

North Shore Rescue, Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog teams and personnel will be on Mt. Seymour

Market volatility, mortgages loom over upcoming earnings of Canada’s big banks

Central bank interest hikes have padded the banks’ net interest margins

Hearings into SNC-Lavalin affair start today, but not with Wilson-Raybould

She has repeatedly cited solicitor-client privilege to refuse all comment

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

Tilray to acquire hemp food company Manitoba Harvest for up to $419 million

Tilray will pay $150 million in cash and $127.5 million in stock.

Tears, flowers at impromptu memorial for Syrian children killed in Halifax fire

The family had only lived in the Quartz Drive home for a few months

NDP candidates push for stronger climate action as Singh supports LNG Canada

Singh has tried to project unity in the party while facing internal criticism for poor fundraising and low support in the polls

Most Read