Monday, September 6, 2010

Gardening Limitation #7: Proximity

While perusing many beautiful garden blogs & articles, I began to contemplate what would be required to transform my garden into one of these amazing showcases.  And this led, naturally, to my determining what obstacles stood between me and my vision.

This was followed by the creation of my Eight Gardening Limitations which I hope to share with everyone over several widespread postings.  They will be listed backwards from the one having the least impact on my personal gardening plans to the one having the greatest (8 = least limiting, 1= most limiting).

Previously posted:
Gardening Limitation #8: Environment

Gardening Limitation #7: Proximity

I define proximity as "a nearness to resources".  Though the internet, email and mail-order (not to mention television and radio) have helped to bring resources & information directly into our homes (and gardens), pictures and text are simply not the same as the real thing.  Being able to reach out and touch the plant, to actually view the shrub growing in your zone, to have discussions, face to face, with experienced gardeners from your area - these are some of the most valuable gardening resources available.

Local plant nurseries typically provide higher quality plants for less cost than most other means and are a great resource for purchasing native and adapted plants specific for your area.
Family Member: "Look dear, I found just the plant we need. See how big & full it looks in the online catalog?"
Gardener: "Yes, looks quite nice."
Family Member: "Hmmm, it appears they only sell it in 4 inch containers."
Gardener: "What!? That's not what the picture shows. It'll take years to get even close to what the picture shows."
Family Member: "Well, its just $12. And then there's the shipping from way up north, let's see, that adds another $10. No tax though, that's nice. So it'll only cost $22"
Gardener: "(Incoherent choking sounds)"

Even better, the really good nurseries are also founts of gardening knowledge.  They provide additional insights into raising the plant in your specific locale.  Perhaps a particular plant is usually listed as sun-loving, but your local nursery will advise you to provide some afternoon shade as your sun is pretty intense.  Or maybe they'll point out that this species can be rather invasive in your garden due to your mild winters - and then guide you to an appropriate substitute.  Often, even the plant information provided on the individual sale signs will have a regional flavor missing in big box nursery shops or on the generic pot labels from distant growers.

Local gardening organizations & societies are another great means of sharing information on your area's growing conditions or on your own particular plant interests.  While it is common for these groups to have an online presence, it is not a substitute for being able to actually meet both people and plant alike.  Visiting home gardens, discussing plant varieties, investigating growing conditions and even sharing plants - all benefits to the gardener who can participate in these groups.

Nearby botanical gardens also provide another great resource.  Walking through these gardens allows one to actually see growing plants that are adapted to the local conditions and situations.  Species names and plant information are readily available - helping the gardener to discover both new plants and new ideas.

Much like Limitation #8 (Environment), short of moving, not much can be done to directly overcome the proximity limitation.  A blog I recently read mentioned a two hour drive into town - imagine the effort required to access resources for that garden (or even possibly the non-existence of such resources) - and the restrictions placed upon the gardener.  If one lives far from these resources, the best you can do is minimize their absence.

The internet, email and mail-order significantly help to alleviate the impact of an unfavorable proximity.  But nothing replaces that human to human contact, or even that human to plant contact.  No matter the online research I conduct, it doesn't substitute for actually being able to view the plant growing in similar conditions in my area or discussing it with a knowledgeable individual.

While not having these resources nearby will likely not prevent one from achieving their gardening goals, it makes the journey more arduous.

(Next up: Gardening Limitation #6: Knowledge)


  1. I read your previous post (#8) before this one. I must add that environment can also throw a wrench in things when all of a sudden BIG change occurs after several years. Like our winters which sailed along at the upper end of zone 8 for several years only to come crashing to earth with 2 winters back to back nearing on a zone 7 experience. A solid standard would be appreciated in the environment area. Who do I complain to about this? :)

    But to the current issue, #7. Here I admit I am very very spoiled. I love in a resource rich environment. Heaven. I am lucky and I know it.

  2. Like Danger Garden, we are totally spoiled for resources here in Austin. I'm glad you featured BSN's wonderfully informative plant signs too.

  3. Great post! I too am pretty spoiled concerning the proximity issue but my trips to BSN still take a considerable amount of time as I can't pull myself away. The BSN sign made me chuckle - great to know that the Mountain Mahogany brings deer from miles around - I'll be sure to avoid it :)

  4. Danger: Would be nice if the environment would level out (our numerous days without rain followed by 10+ inches in 24 hours is but one example!). We, too, are lucky in Austin to have nearby resources.

    Pam & Cat: Ain't BSN got cool info (not to mention plants & help)!

  5. What a great idea for a series of posts! Proximity is definitely key to having a well stocked and varied garden. Here in the Portland area, proximity is definitely not an excuse as we have so many commercial growers, "in our backyards". Hand in hand with proximity is price. Fewer transportation costs means cheaper (and fresher) plants.

  6. Linda: Glad you're enjoying them. The idea came to me when I started looking at other garden blogs and thought "My garden ain't never gonna look that good." Then I wondered what obstacles were preventing it from happening - and I decided to share.

  7. I like your idea. After it's all done, it would be nice to take all 8 and make them into a sidebar category (tab?) that people could print out as a booklet. Of course, you probably couldn't sell this booklet at garden centers...I'm not so sure they're in to "Reality Gardening". lol The info you're providing is nice for those of us who have 'been there, killed that'. I'm eager to read the next in the series and especially eager to see what the #1 spot will be...
    David Tropical Texana/ Houston

  8. David: Thanks. Reality certainly rears its ugly head in my garden!

  9. I chose my roses from the catalogue, while waiting in a rented house for this one to be built. It was a long year. Some of the roses took me by surprise - I wouldn't call that colour ...! Future replacements will be chosen, as you suggest, from the plant, in flower ;>) Oh, and I vote for a Page Tab to pull all these posts together for us please.

  10. Elephant: Yeah, plant catalogs use pictures of plants growing in absolutely ideal conditions - but I don't think my garden has ever seen "ideal conditions".

  11. I'm absolutely enjoying your Limitations list -- looking forward to all the rest to come. That BSN sign is hilarious -- we are so fortunate to have that and other fantastic local nurseries.

  12. Meredith: Thanks; doesn't that BSN sign make you laugh - I started giggling right there in the nursery when I read it.