Bitz is one of those people who always has the best of intentions. When she declared “You really need to see this woman’s yard,” I knew she was speaking from her heart. We arrived in separate cars and separate masks. I’m not into fashion these days, nor makeup or other forms of adornment. However, choosing a mask is an important task. I have masks from a multitude of fabrics — dragonflies, John Deere tractor, cartoon farm, hot chili peppers. One mask shows the bottom half of my face with a huge smile, just in case you can’t tell if I’m smiling under the mouth protection.
When we arrived, we clearly saw that Wendy’s yard is so large a person would have absolutely no problem keeping 10 or more feet away from others.
The gracious gardener gave us the tour, which took us a while; Her yard could easily be featured in one of those garden glamour magazines. Mini paths meander through what might look like overgrown foliage. Yet, Wendy’s plants are merely allowed to grow as they like, within reason.
When I looked around, I thought: When do these people eat or sleep? However, the garden tender soon pointed out that the plants have figured out over time exactly where they grow best. Of course, she’ll do some thinning to keep things in check. As we walked she deadheaded flowers and gathered fresh blooms for the bouquets Bitz and I each received as a gift.
One key to letting plants do their own thing is to choose those that reseed readily. Of course, she has the luxury of a lot of space.
I like this idea, and not just due to the fact that I’m lazy. When I visit LaDona’s yard, one of the things I love the best is that edible plants are growing in odd spots. If I’m hungry, I can walk around and nibble on arugula or chard that just happens be growing near my kneecaps.
Wendy’s yard contains mostly ornamentals, as well as a carefully-clipped mound of fruit trees that are kept small for easy picking. Wendy’s hubby attended the fruit tree pruning workshop at Hodge’s Nursery on the Midway, which helps people keep their trees 5-6 feet tall.
While Wendy watches the flowers grow, the vegetables are mostly the domain of her guy.
As for the seeds everywhere, sometimes this means there are extra plants to share. Many go to friends, and others will go to the curb where neighbors can grab some greenery while they’re walking by. Bitz and I didn’t even need to ask, we were offered some beauties to take home that day.
What I loved about Wendy was the glee with which she pointed out many of her favorites. And with so many plants, she can walk around gleefully all day. I was taking notes to learn what likes to grow in Chico.
Bunny bloom larkspur, she pointed out, has a bloom in the center that looks just like a bunny rabbit. You need to look closely. In the center of the pink petals, a close eye will discern the outline of bunny ears. The plant reseeds easily, as mentioned.
We also fell in love, again, with an old favorite, Love in the Mist. Wendy calls it “Nigella,” (Nigella damescena), which somehow sounds regal and fits the statuesque, drought-tolerant plant. Nigella can fill up an empty space with seeds that pop out of a dry lantern-shaped bloom in late summer. The dried flower stalks make interesting dry arrangements indoors. Wispy blue flowers look like floating dancers in a ballet.
The seeds of Nigella are also used in Middle Eastern cooking, or even more casual munching, and have a mild nutmeg flavor. Some folks toast them and add to cakes (similar to poppy seeds) or to chutney and spices. The writer at A Gardener’s Table blog notes her young daughter will eat them while standing in the yard. Again, this beauty loves to drop seeds, which can be helped along if you rough up the area by scratching the soil with a hoe.
Another plant that loves to sprawl includes Spirea, which enjoys areas of partial shade. This plant grows so well in Chico, you’ll sometimes spot it growing in the gravel in alleys in the avenues.
Sprinkled throughout this particular yard was feverfew, another cheery, sun-loving flower with tiny daisy-like flowers.
Of course, all this discussion of no-fuss does not mean there is no fuss.
Bulbs, for one thing, were a hassle to keep around thanks to the critters from the nearby oak trees and burrowers in the soil. Wendy buys ¼ inch aviary wire at Collier’s Hardware and folds it into baskets. She places the baskets in the ground, fills with bulbs, then covers with soil.
Some other choice plants in her yard include the money tree (with half-dollar sized circles that turn opaque as they dry), and several others I forgot to write down during all the excitement.