Friday, October 18, 2013

Part 1: Change in a Garden

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'

"Nothing is static. Everything living has its beginning and its end."

- Elizabeth Lawrence
Lob's Wood

Sometimes it is harder to make changes in a garden than one would like. It was certainly difficult to make the final decision to take down the once-magnificent witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena', in front of Elizabeth Lawrence's house. Dealing with terminally ill plants is inevitable in gardening, especially in a garden with so many mature specimens. 

Every plant loss in Miss Lawrence's garden weighs much more heavily on my mind than those in my own garden, for those are my (much) younger plants; they are not on public display, or documented on small index cards or large maps... much less, an integral part of a garden that is a Preservation Project of the The Garden Conservancy, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, entered into the Smithsonian's Archives of American Gardens, a recognized local historic landmark... and, oh yes, have I mentioned that this is the garden of the South's most pre-eminent garden writer of the twentieth century? 

Honestly, all of that aside, what I attach to more than anything else is imagining the years of care and attention that Elizabeth gave to each plant. I imagine all of the knowledge she gained over the years, and then documented so eloquently for all of us to learn in perpetuity. Seeing all of this, like movie clips in my mind's eye, does not make it any easier to decide that an original Lawrence plant needs to go. But there are times when decisions must be made - as in the case of the Jelena witch hazel - because the plant is telling you - perhaps with its very last breath - that it is time to make a change. 

If there's one thing I've learned as a gardener, it's that dying plants don't get any greener.  Then again, the loss of a plant is really an opportunity to try something new!

Stay tuned for the story of the witch hazel in "Part 2: Change is a Garden".

Yours in Dirt,
Andrea Sprott
Elizabeth Lawrence Garden Curator

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