Wildness in my garden / by Sandy Olson

Several years ago I decided to transition from a large vegetable garden to turning it into a wild thing. I went to horticulture school many years ago and since then have been searching for the corner of gardening that suits me, calls to me. I tried my hand at landscaping and was not very good at it. I grew herbs for restaurants. That suited my romantic side. The smells, the culinary uses, their foreign wildness, their connections to Provence and Italy. I loved working with the chefs and hearing their stories of growing up with the herbs growing wild around them. I gave that up when we moved to Maine. Fresh herbs were not very popular here 35 years ago and I had hurt my back pretty bad so I had to adapt. I started painting and drawing and moved into the art world for a time. I became involved with local environmental groups and was much engaged by the stories of nature in the watershed. I came across wild flowers in the wild and then heard of a movement to return native plants

This time of year in a totally chaotic way the native plants I grew from seed begin to bloom. I would be hard pressed to call it a garden . There is an area against the garden shed that holds the domesticated perennials that I love: peonies I took from the garden of a friend who died a few years ago, bush clematis that the bees and I both love, My Admiral Perry iris that I wait for every spring. The rest I am still sorting out.

This is my third year seeding natives from the Wild Seed Project. This is a careless experiment designed partly by my tender back and partly by my love of exploration. I am watching the wild strawberry establish itself as the dominant ground cover. My only input is to beat back the competitors as best I can including the spearmint I transplanted unwittingly with some iris a while back. I am no being a purist. The beautiful ajuga that blooms early and the bees love, is welcome around the edges. I took out the garden fence when I moved from vegetables to wild things and the deer are moving through and gazing. I much appreciated that Heather McCargo from Wild Seed said that she was cutting back her asters to get them to bush out. I was then more comfortable to co-garden with the local deer family. Hopefully I will have very bushy asters this year.

Penstemon hirsutus

Penstemon hirsutus