Saturday, March 26, 2022


 to break the rules.  What are the rules and who made them?

To clarify--I'm only speaking of gardening and our personal concepts of what inspires us.

Until our family moved to central Oregon in 1978, I  followed the gardening trend of wherever we were living.  Then we bought 80 acres in Tumalo and it was "wow"---.  The emphasis changed to what to feed the chickens and cows, and the family without running to the grocery store or Big R every other day.  Life rapidly changed. 

Dulcy Mahar, a garden writer for the Oregonian became my garden inspiration.  The inspiration was not from her plant selections but rather her attitude and practical advice.  Her writings always lead me to take a deep breath and truly appreciate each day.  Unfortunately, Dulcy succumbed to cancer in 2011.

In 1999 Dulcy wrote about breaking rules.  Her advice was to "blast some stereotypes, have some fun, loosen up, take chances and live on the cutting edge." Those were pretty revolutionary ideas for all who lived by the guidelines of gardeners passed. 

"You have to have lawn."  Unless you are bound by homeowner association regulations or you need to have a grassy play area, why continue on with a high maintenance, water consuming lawn. These past years have taught us there are other alternatives that can provide beauty and conserve our natural resources.  So, it's ok to break that rule.

"A deck or terrace has to be adjacent to the house."  Maybe the area adjacent to the house is in full sun and beastly hot when you are looking forward to a bar-b-que.  Across the yard is a shade tree, why not create a little terrace there.  Surely you can carry the corn and kebobs 20 feet further.

"Vegetables should have their own space."  We have certainly learned the benefits of planting flowers with veggies these past few years and the benefits of pollination as a result.  Neighbors and garden visitors might raise their eyebrows a bit, but you could probably place money on the fact that your veggies will be more prolific in comparison. 

"It's easiest to design a garden on a flat, well-proportioned rectangle."  How do you spark creativity on problem lots?  A slope, or an odd-shaped lot is what makes a garden unique.  Problems canpush you to exciting solutions.  A perfect blank rectangular canvas will seduce you into planting a boring garden.  If you need some interesting levels, think of adding a berm to change the elevation a bit.  Don't fall into the trap of planting flowers in straight lines all lined up like soldiers.

"There's a front yard and a back yard and never the twain shall meet." Who says all the flowers belong in the back, while the front is supposed to look like a golf course?  If not limited by homeowner regulations, why can't flowers and flowering shrubs extend from the front yard to the backyard in a continuous flow.  The City of Bend offers a guide on conserving water in street side landscaping available on-line at

Gardeners have come a long way from the gardening style of our ancestors and isn't it great to have the freedom to make the choices that best bring us the pleasure a garden is meant for.

"That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest."  Henry David Thoreau (1817-62)

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