Back garden, spring, bird bath, ugly white chairs

A Gardener is a Plant Referee

Wandering around the garden, I found myself nudging aside foliage of vigorous plants to make sure less hearty subjects weren’t being shaded or squashed. That got me thinking about what I actually do in the garden and what roles I play. I’m no sports fan, but it could be the current playoffs (hockey and basketball) and new season (baseball) have influenced my metaphor-maker.

A gardener is…

A referee, who makes sure everyone plays nice and no one gets hurt. Except sometimes that means someone has to get hurt weeded.

A coach, who puts plants into the right spots, so they’ll grow well and look good.

A trainer, who snips, prunes, and stakes, encouraging everyone to get into optimal shape.

A doctor, who designs preventive regimens, diagnoses ailments, and applies tonics and nostrums when needed.

A chaplain, who ministers to the dying and performs the last rites at the compost heap.

A general manager, who decides what changes are going to be made for success next season.

Which means all those plants out there are a team.

My home team is looking pretty good right now, but its season is just getting under way.

White and green ornamental grass and pink tulipsGreen and white ribbon grass (Phalaris arundinacea var. picta) looks good with pink tulips. It’s a quick spreader, though, so eventually some management will be needed.

Male fern, Dryopteris filix-mas, unfurling fiddleheads and yellow ornamental grass, Milium effusumFerns have finally unrolled their fiddleheads. Dryopteris filix-mas looks fine with the intense yellow-green of the ornamental grass Milium effusum.


Heuchera "Green Spice"One of the huge tribe of coral bells is Heuchera “Green Spice.” It does fairly well in dry shade, and the subtle shades of purply-red and greeny-grey invite artful colour combinations.

Heuchera "Dolce Key Lime Pie" and Hellebore "Ivory Prince"Another Heuchera, this one with the rather awkward moniker “Dolce Key Lime Pie,” lives in a big blue pot with the hellebore “Ivory Prince,” whose flowers are taking on shades of green and pink as they mature.

Gentians, Gentiana acaulisThose blue gentians again! Gentiana acaulis is doing its thing next to the front walk. I suspect the plants need to be dug and divided every few years, because this newer patch is doing much better than the original, which has been in place for almost 20 years.

Wallflower, Erysimum "Bowles Mauve"Wallflower Erysimum “Bowles Mauve” is at its best right now. The magenta of the flowers and grey-blue-green of the foliage are a magical combination.



American goldfinches at feeder enjoying black sunflower seedsRecent visitors to the garden include two pairs of American goldfinches, who spent much of an afternoon loading up on sunflower seeds. A deer rested in my neighbour’s garden and stopped by here later to nibble on the lawn.




Deer in neighbour's yard seen through shrubs

Can you spot the deer?

Go Team!



  1. I liked the chaplain reference! Is it my imagination or has there been more white blossom than usual this spring? Colour is normally dominated by the bluebells and cherry blossom, but this year the magnolias were dominant and lots of other white things everywhere.

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    1. Maybe all those white-flowered trees and shrubs are doing especially well in your area. My garden goes through colour phases — lime green, yellow, blue, pink, etc., ending up a sort of drab dusty green and brown by late summer. Then the asters get going and its a purple period before the maple leaves turn yellow.

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  2. My deep purple erysimum is looking great in a big tub in the front garden, I had forgotten what it was called till I read your blog. I also love the traditional wallflowers, yellow through to red.

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    1. Well, they don’t belong to anyone. They just roam around the neighbourhood. Some people really dislike them, others think they’re cool. I mostly like them, except when they eat something I’d rather they didn’t.

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      1. Well, I didn’t mean to say you own them, but here deer don’t come to human inhabited areas. It’s already lucky to see them in the wild.
        Aside: How can anyone *not* like a deer? They’re so beautiful!

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        1. Warning: lengthy reply! Here in British Columbia (and Victoria, where I live), urban deer are becoming quite numerous. Suburban areas, golf courses, and parks are welcoming habitats, and there are no predators (unless you count cars; collisions with deer are fairly common). A few years ago, the municipality where I live conducted a “deer cull,” in which eleven deer were captured and killed. This was in response to some residents who were angry about deer eating stuff in their gardens, and a perception that deer sometimes attack people and/or dogs. A few weeks ago a woman riding a bicycle was apparently attacked by a large buck, and sustained injuries. Bucks can be aggressive during the rutting season (in fall) and female deer protect their fawns (in spring). I personally was totally opposed to the cull. So were a lot of other people, and another one isn’t planned. (It was quite expensive and not effective). At present, an organization is trying to get government approval for a deer contraceptive program; the idea is to limit population growth and find ways to live with the urban deer. I think this is the best plan. In the meantime, I use netting to protect some plants, look out for deer when I’m driving or biking, and just enjoy the sight of our local deer doing their thing. Sorry to run on about this, but it has become an issue around here recently. Years ago, I would have found all this hard to believe.

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          1. I like the contraceptive programme.
            Thanks for your lengthy reply! Now I understand better a situation (and a place) that I’m unfamiliar with.
            I wish we had deer, but they’re very timid, they stay in the forest. I got to see one or two but just out of sheer luck.

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