Gardening: Is Looking Messy a Problem?

I ran across two stories yesterday with a similar theme. A gardener does amazing things growing edible plants and flowers in a limited urban space and she comes up against zoning issues, often based on complaints from neighbors about the appearance of her property (see details below).

That got me thinking about the conflict between expectations of tidiness and how plants in a garden actually grow.

I personally think a messy garden is a thing of beauty. Its appearance changes constantly. The plants always defy expectations. Sometimes they stubbornly refuse to grow; other times they bulge out of the space provided and overwhelm the plants nearby. But no matter what, the next week or the next month, everything will look different.

How do we go about educating non-gardeners to understand and appreciate a landscape that has a less formal, not-quite-organized look? Perhaps by teaching children to garden and pointing out the hidden beauty to them? Perhaps by celebrating a bit of messiness in our gardening blogs? Perhaps by supporting our gardening friends who have a vision that is different than our own?

What do you think? Next time you go to pin a gorgeous formal landscape to your Pinterest board, will you consider adding a more realistic and untidy one as well?

The stories that got me thinking:

1. Stephen Orr. The Power of Flowers. Martha Stewart Living. July 2012. pp. 70-73. (Features Tara Kolla of Silver Lake Farms.)

2. Tulsa woman’s edible garden cut down.


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