Thursday, February 11, 2016

Navigating a slippery slope in the garden

I used to hate this! Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata or terniflora) used to make me crazy. It would form a virtual helmet over some already large shrubs, turning them into giant blobs and defying all efforts to pull it out. It came back every year and the fight would resume. I couldn't even enjoy its blossoms.

Navigating a slippery slope in the garden

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I used to hate this! Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata or terniflora) used to make me crazy. It would form a virtual helmet over some already large shrubs, turning them into giant blobs and defying all efforts to pull it out. It came back every year and the fight would resume. I couldn't even enjoy its blossoms.

Then Emily, my late-great-moved-to-North-Carolina helper, suggested dividing it and planting it along the fence. Understand I have something like 150 feet of fence. Way too much of a blizzard effect if the whole thing were covered in white, so Emily planted plugs of it here and there.

Suddenly, I'm in the throes of major like for autumn clematis. It's fluffier, whiter, prettier than I ever remember. Its starry blossoms are quite beautiful and their scent, though faint, is pleasant.

It's yet another example of the slippery slope effect of gardening. It's like food (tomatoes!), like wine and art and music: Likes and dislikes change and evolve with time. Witness the mass "editing" I've been doing in the garden over the last couple of years. Things that once felt special now seem so ordinary, they bring little pleasure.

And less, I've discovered, is so much more. Even for sweet autumn clematis, which truly does look sweet on the fence.

Inquirer Staff Writer
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About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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