Newly planted area above with lots of baby plants including ornamental grasses. Orange flags mark the location of tiny plants.
Let’s just say from 2013-2015, I lived in an alien non-garden focused universe where I packed up a lifetime’s worth of belongings, sold my home, and moved to a house in Tyler, Texas, which turned out to be a mistake. I lived in the Tyler house (never unpacking) for 4 months until I was able to move a second time to the house I live in now.
For all practical purposes, I was dead in the garden waters during that time, and three years of absence can make a difference.
I missed the boat in regard to the BIG stuff happening in gardening news or perhaps I’ve always missed the boat because I do my own thing and because gardening in most of Texas is unlike gardening in other parts of the U.S.–It’s hot and dry and in some areas humid. Water has been an issue for as long as I can remember. And until now, for the most part, I’ve worked toward growing a cottage garden in full sun in alkaline caliche “soil”. (Now I garden on sandy loam that leans towards the acidic.)
Various grasses, yarrow, and a volunteer squash vine in the newly planted area. (No one informed the squash vine it wasn’t welcomed.) Trying for the New Perennial Movement “look”.
Recently, I found another garden blog that piqued my interest so I subscribed to it and learned I am lagging behind on the latest and greatest “happenings” when it comes to garden design. Even though I do my own thing in the garden, I still like to know what’s going on.
This blanket flower, Gaillardia pulchella, also added itself to the area. I let it stay. It’s cozying up to Joe Pye weed on the left and then there is a volunteer tomato who thinks he’s a grass on the lower right corner of this photo.
I’m embarrassed to say I am unfamiliar with labels such a Dutch Wave gardening and the New Perennial Movement which actually might be at the end of its current iteration (then again that depends on which gardener/garden designer/landscape architect you ask. ) I love Piet Oudolf’s work, but didn’t connect these labels with his name.
And apparently, the New Perennial Movement is quite old even though we call it new. Who knew? I didn’t
Next, there is the concept I completely missed of plant communities where our plants work together as if they live in a commune, and there’s the wild forest gardening movement, which I equate with Mary Reynolds in her book, The Garden Awakening. which is similar but different from the native plant movement plus there’s gardening for ecology and permaculture. How does one keep up?
And now—today—I’m excited about these things—which is sort of like watching a movie, three years after its debut, or wearing last year’s fashion—and spouting on about how great it is when everyone else has moved on.
Ornamental grass ‘Sorghastrum Indian Steel’
BUT to be fair to myself, there were few visual clues to these styles or movements in Austin, Texas where I used to live & garden and certainly no one in Tyler (that I know of) or in the little town I live in currently is planting Oudolf-style, naturalistic gardens.
No? I’m not surprised because they’re all very regional plants. I grew all three in my former garden.
While the northern and Midwestern parts of the US may focus on recreating prairie meadows and a perennial mix with tall grasses, Austin, Texas maintained its status quo with a focus on granite sand, limestone, gravel, various agaves, yuccas, and even a cactus or three. I think of a minimalist-modern garden style as being typical of Austin.
This makes sense for an area that is so drought prone where water use can be expensive and restricted, but I still think someone, somewhere, in Austin should have picked up on the “big grasses with perennials” movement and tried it.
Does any of this matter? Moreover, how does this apply to you, my readers, who live all over the world?
Here are the take-aways:
Don’t assume as I did that what is happening in your region of the gardening world is happening elsewhere. Gardening is regional, like it or not. I don’t think California, because of its recent droughts, or Arizona or Nevada because of their heat have gone the way of big grasses either. Also, perhaps the fact that much of California is desert and wildfires loom large could be a huge reason not to plant grasses.
If you drop out of gardening for a few years, you may get left behind.—And then again, not every home gardener truly cares one way or the other about garden style or what’s happening elsewhere. (While I do what I want in my garden and don’t necessarily follow trends, if I see something I like, yes, I will work to integrate it into my garden.)
What appears to be an international movement in garden design, may simply skip your area, depending upon where you live and what your regional dynamics are.
I’m an advocate of doing what you like in YOUR garden regardless of what is or is not popular in the region or internationally. I maintained my Austin cottage garden made with native plants when cottage gardens weren’t particularly popular.
To the here and now: While I’m still a cottage gardener at heart, I’m incorporating a lot of big tall grasses in parts of my garden because, frankly, I like The New Perennial Movement (even though I didn’t know that’s what it was called). And so what if I don’t know all the style labels, and its popularity is diminishing? What do I care?