Planting with Purpose

Hummingbird in VailSome years ago I decided there is a big difference between gardeners and yardeners. Gardeners plan ahead, perusing gardening catalogs all winter long. Yardeners step out in their front yards, cup of coffee in hand, gaze down at something green sprouting up and think, “Hmmm. I wonder what that is.”

The good news is that it’s not that hard to convert yourself from a yardener to a gardener. And whether you’re still waiting until the mood hits you to plant something, nurturing this season’s plantings, or already replacing failing plants, you can add some purpose to your efforts.

And yes, purpose requires planning. Of course, like me, you may be more likely to visit a nursery, buy something eye-catching, then go home and wonder where to plant it. Better to have a list, having thought out what plants work best in sunny spots versus shady areas or with lots of water versus next to none. And as tempting as it is to jump right into planting, experts say we must put in good soil or amend the soil we have.Smelling the blooming folwers

Those super smart gardening people also advise having a color palette in mind for your flower garden and sticking to it, especially in smaller gardens. But don’t be afraid to think outside the flower box! Who knew purple and orange would look so good together, or even red and pink? It’s also good to take note of early versus late bloomers so you have some color in your garden all season.

Part of planting with purpose is deciding what wildlife or insects you would like for your garden to deter or attract. In this way the garden provides a purpose beyond being beautiful. For instance, if rabbits or deer have access to your garden, ask at the nursery for a list of plants that they don’t find quite as tasty as others. (Good luck!) You can even deter mosquitoes from gardens near an outdoor patio by planting citronella grass, basil, lemon balm, peppermint, lavender or catnip.

GardeningIt’s a joy to see gardens that attract life, however, especially butterflies and hummingbirds. Monarch butterflies are sadly declining in number so planting milkweed for them is a good idea. Butterflies are also attracted to phlox, butterfly bush and coneflowers. Our hummingbird friends love any nectar-bearing red plant, but are also drawn to penstemon, lupine, salvia or cardinal flower. Bees need our support, too, and they thank us by pollinating! They love blue mist spirea, sage, or bee balm, and they won’t sting if left alone.

As with any creative enterprise, it’s okay to make mistakes, and gardens are so forgiving. Don’t hesitate to gently move plants that aren’t doing well to a different spot or (gasp!) throw them away and start over. Start small and you’ll soon discover you’ve given up yardening for gardening—and you’re planting with purpose. Enjoy!

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  1. good thoughts…you are a great example in your garden!
    Love you, Jimmie

  2. Phyllis Murphy says:

    Miss Nancy. You must be a serious gardener after reading your very interesting words about gardeners and yardeners. I am a yardener having tried very hard to be a gardener. Many attempts were made but soon decided to remain a yardener. We are fun people laughing at our attempts realizing that vines are sometimes poison ivy. I identified with so many of your examples but I really do admire gardeners and their presentation of the beauty of God’s creation. Thanks for your many thoughts. You are my favorite flower. Hugs. Phyllis

    • Thanks, Phyllis. Your comments remind me of when my father came out to visit years ago and saw I had planted honeysuckle to climb up my mailbox. He couldn’t believe I would plant something he had spent his adult life pulling out of bushes in Tennessee! But when I said the fragrance reminded me of home he understood!

  3. Nancy, you give such food for thought. I wonder if keeping my puppy away from digging up my new plants is a form of planting on purpose.

    Here’s to enjoying the beauty of our gardening skills.

  4. Charlie Fusco says:

    Nancy, I share your gardening enthusiasm! I love be surrounded by each season’s gifts and all the beautiful creatures that come to share them with me. Our most recent visitor is a favorite of your: colorful hummingbirds! This year we’ve been blessed with a particularly lush explosion of color and scent. Easter Sunday we hosted a garden party luncheon for around 30 visiting musicians and singers: all out of town travelers who are part of the VOW Choir: all participants are over 50 and passionate about praise and worship. It was glorious as they filled the garden with laughter and song. All the planting, pruning, and preparations were worth it for that one wonderful shared event. The true reward of gardening is at labor’s end when the refreshing comes from having interacted with God’s greater creation. Nancy, I recently came across a delightful YouTube video series by a British lady: Medium Size Gardening. On a non-gardening day, you might enjoy checking out her tutorials. I also have gained enormous knowledge from watching two of Britons greatest living gardeners: Allen Titchmarsh and Monty Don. They are good humored and so knowable about every aspect of gardening. Observing them and other avid gardeners, I have concluded that gardening nurtures and imparts gentility of spirit.

    • That it does, Charlie! Although I don’t live in your area or in England where things grow and thrive so easily, I take joy in every thing that lives or blooms! It’s even hard for me to pull a flowering weed! Enjoy your gardens!

  5. Definitely a yardener here! For many years I maintained our yard and the vacant yard across the street, which seemed to be an extension of our yard. I did the work but only because I liked the result! One blessing of living in a retirement community now: the maintenance department does all the work!

    • I get it, Peggy. I also help a widowed neighbor do her planting partly because I enjoy seeing it! Unfortunately, this year the rabbits have done some damage to what I planted.

  6. your huzzband says:

    I appreciate the beauty you bring to our deck and gardens every year. You brighten my life!

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