Saturday, July 15, 2006

Let their inner poodle run free

I have never understood the American passion for planting shrubs then trimming them into soulless little poodle shapes. Of course I know that the art of topiary goes way back in Europe and Asia, long before the American lawn-plus-shrub culture was even considered. But growing topiary is an art all about careful culture, not about hacking any shrub down to a squat sphere. Maybe it is a symptom of a need to feel in total control of one's environment. I have other thoughts about this, but probably should avoid making sweeping statements about the general American psyche.
Here is a view of my neighbor's yard, seen through my Russian sage. As you can see, she has a very different approach to gardening than mine. When I bought my house 4 years ago, it came with lots of poodle-bushes, carefully lined up at equal distances from each other like little soldiers. I have removed most of them.
The remaining shrubs have been encouraged to grow haphazardly in any direction they pleased. At first they just looked shaggy, then their individual personalities started to come forth. Here are 2 that are now looking nice and unconstrained.

Unfortunately, not every shrub knows how to break out of its formal mode. The bush at the front corner of my property just refuses to spread out and quite probably will never adopt a happily casual look. It certainly looks ill-at-ease with my desert plants. Perhaps it can't relax because it knows I have ambitions to remove it.


beryl said...

I love your Russian Sage. I first saw it growing in profusion at REI in Reno and have thought about trying it on my red clay hillside. Wonder if the deer would leave it alone?

Purple Fuzzy Mittens said...

According to High Country Gardens (my favorite garden folks) Russian sage is both rabbit and deer resistant, and variety 'Blue Spires' grows best in zones 4-9. I first saw on campus at UNR and fell in love with it.

Birdsong said...

Can you get the Russian Sage locally? I have the same soil as Beryl, and would love something different that looked so profuse and was deer resistant.

Purple Fuzzy Mittens said...

Although I had mine shipped from New Mexico, I have seen it at Home Depot in Reno. Sometimes it is just called Perovskia. I love that, here in Reno anyway, it blooms all summer long. Sharon's have been in longer than mine, and are creating lots of volunteers.