Thursday, April 10, 2008

Anti Deadhead

Martha Stewart would never like my garden.

Any act of gardening which is different than what nature would do has a negative impact, however slight. Most gardening acts are de-evolutionary—they set things back. As an example, destructive cultivation using the wrong technique can set soil back considerably. This doesn't mean we can't compensate, such as using more compost to compensate for compacted clay.

I grow a non-native lavender cultivar called 'Provence' (my garden must have deer-resistant plants) which has tall-stemmed blossoms. After their fragrant bloom is spent, the flower parts fairly quickly fall from the stalks. Most gardeners would cut back the blossom stems, called dead-heading, as soon as the color begins to wither.

As an example of trying to be more “natural”, I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if the plants weren't pruned. So, years ago I left the slender woody stems through the winter as an experiment in low-maintenance gardening via avoidance. To my pleasant surprise, one of the first places to be garlanded with spider webs on a dewy spring morning were on the remaining naked, dead 'Provence' stalks.

Now, I leave a few of the spent 'Provence' blooms so as to insure plenty of spider web roosts. Sure, the spiders have mostly found other places from which to sling their orbs. But the more opportunities there are for these hungry predators, the better. Amigo Bob, a locally-famous organic farming consultant, calls spiders the “wolves of the landscape”.

I'm still waiting for the spiders to return in all their glory like that one special day.

Please post a comment - I want to know what you think.

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