Monday, January 2, 2012

The Invertebrate Approach to Gardening

One of the great advantages of winter is its ability to strip your garden bare, leaving it shivering in its underwear while you dream of summer color and leafy coverage. I do not have a winter garden or much winter interest, aside from a trumpet vine and deutzia that resemble Medusa, but I'm okay with that. My bare bottomed garden gives me a chance to see it as it really is and to make summer plans that work with the bones of my yard.

But that's when things get weird. What kind of bones does my garden have? Does my fence qualify my garden's bones as chicken bones, or am I a woolly mammoth, considering the small swath of native trees left by the builder? Holy Toledo! What if I don't have any bones at all? If my garden were an animal, would it be a squid?  Hmm... In the spirit of ridiculousness and to hopefully start your new year with a smile, I've decided to end the confusion once and for all by creating a quiz to help you determine the boniness of your garden.

How Bony is Your Garden?

If your garden has:

  • a permanent structure with decorative/architectural appeal     +10 points
    • but it's in your neighbors yard     -5 points
  • large trees     +10 points
  • shrubs/trees taller than you are     + 10 points
  • little trees/shrubs with lots of potential     +5 points
  • meandering paths     +10 points
    • a path trampled through the grass by the dog     -5 points
  • stonework     +10 points
    • a pile of stone you might do something with eventually     -5 points
  • dogs, cats, chickens, etc all of which are full of bones     +5 points
  • attractive gate/fence     +10 points
    • but it's held together by a bungee cord     -5 points
  • bird houses and bird baths     +10 points
  • a pond or water feature     +10 points
  • a container pond     +5 points
  • a patio or deck     +10 points
  • evergreens     +10 points
    • a can of green spray paint and red plastic berries     -5 points

0 - 5 points       Squid

Don't fret about being a squid. You are delicious fried and served with marinara. It also means you have a clean canvas with which to dream and design. Anything is possible!

10 - 25 points     Hamster

You're on the right track and with your nocturnal work habits you never have to worry about sunburn. Close your eyes and imagine your garden as you wish it to be. Wait! Take out the winning lottery ticket and try again. Get ready to get dirty and you just might make your wishes come true.

30 - 45 points     Duck-billed Platypus

Not only are you one of the coolest mammals on Earth, but if you're male you have a venomous spur on your back leg that can be handy for securing discounts at your local nursery. Your garden has some excellent beginning boniness. Don't stop now!

50 - 65 points     St. Bernard

Not only do you get to slobber and drool while gardening, but you bring your own drinks and never have to tromp inside in the midst of a project due to dehydration. Clever! Your garden has some fabulous features that go a long way to accentuate your plantings. But we already knew that, considering you were clever enough to bring drinks.

70 - 85 points     Pygmy Elephant

Your excellent swimming ability and incredible strength allows you to garden in all kinds of wet weather. You've given serious thought to your garden design and understand how it is related to your garden as a whole. Either that or you got lucky and bought a house with an awesome garden. Just don't tell anyone. I'd stick with Option A.

90 - 100 points     Bigfoot

You might be elusive but your garden design isn't. If you've noticed your neighbors leaning over the fence/stone wall/hedge it's because they're taking photos and emailing them out to family and friends, pretending your garden is theirs. They're jealous and so am I.

110 - 115 points     T-Rex

You are the Jedi Master of gardening. Your garden has it all, possibly including a ticket booth and long lines. However, if I hide behind the historically accurate, architecturally reproduced garden shed, I might be able to take some cuttings and pictures to help me when I get home. It's cheaper than the gift shop.

I'm a pygmy elephant! I was shocked by this. Here's how I qualified according to the ultrascientific test:

Large trees + 10 points 
Three crepe myrtles, a huge river birch, a 'Yoshino' cherry, several ash trees, and an oak, cedar, and hornbeam left by the builder form the spine of my back garden.

Attractive fence  +10 points

Shrubs taller than I am + 10 points
This is a deutzia 'Pink a Boo' underplanted with lamium.

Gate held together with a bungee cord - 5 pts

Patio + 10 points

 Birdhouses and birdbaths + 10 points
I pulled a tiny nest out of this house this fall. I think it was a chickadee. 'Baltyk' clematis grows in the front garden.

I have several birdhouses and birdbaths in the garden. I came up with this idea to help use the extra creeping bramble that had originally been part of the front garden redesign until I changed my mind. The birdhouse is designed for small birds and is made from recycled mango wood.

Stonework + 10 points  
A stone ring circles the zelkova tree in the front and protects it from lawn mower damage. The remaining rock roses are coming out next spring since the area has become too shady and are being replaced with variegated ajuga.

Evergreens + 10 points 
Prague viburnums grow along the side of the house, offering winter protection and summer shade.

Container pond + 5 points
Even though my muck bucket frog pond is inground, I categorized it as a container pond. 'Lime Rickey' heuchera and shasta daisies grow near the rocks.

Here are the 'bones' of my Rose of Sharon. They grew to the second story this summer! The heated bird bath is very popular in winter.

Cute dog, full of bones! + 5 points

Most excellent shed! Unfortunately, it's in my neighbors yard. This photo shows a few of the trees left by the builder as well as the dog run.


  1. Enjoyed the photos. Your dog is adorable. Love your Viburnum. Wish I had known about them some years ago when I was adding shrubs around the perimeter of my yard. I qualified as Bigfoot. :)
    Cher Sunray Gardens
    Goldenray Yorkies

  2. My score is T-Rex level - I am so happy I excelled at your quiz!

    This post was very entertaining. . . as usual. Applause!

  3. Love this way of thinking about the bones of the garden. Since we never have a Winter like yours, we can forget to review the structural elements and just concentrate on the growing of "stuff".
    Happily though, from your scale, I have a T-Rex. It may be one of those where the bones need a bit of reassembling though.

  4. Well, I didn't know that writing about garden bones could be so down right funny :-)! But you also have some great bony advice hidden in your post. I definitively need to get a bird bath and a bird house, now! Loved to see your garden shots! The pink deutzia just blows me away, what a beautiful shrub.

  5. Extra points for the cute dog, who looks a lot like our Miss Pet, Buffy.

  6. Wow, I was surprised I'm a Pygmy Elephant, too! Garden design is not my forte, but luckily the previous owners were great designers. Thanks for the tips on how to improve, too! Great post! I love the gate with the bungee cord.

  7. I am not counting, but pretty sure my garden is bony. I have all the requirements, but a garden needs the softscape of the pretties too. Cute post and fun way of looking at the garden structure.

  8. Apparently I'm a pygmy elephant too! That must mean I'm on the right track... :)

    I love how your 'pink a boo' is underplanted with lamium. Very nice combo.

  9. Hilarious! Thanks for a good laugh at the beginning of the year. I have a "bones" post in the waiting, but yours is much more fun!! I've been doing some bones tweaking lately. I love looking at my garden this time of year to re-evaluate. Thankfully I'm at the point of just adding a few metatarsals here and there and not hip replacement or spine surgery! Tee hee

  10. Oh this is fun!! I scored better than I thought considering I don't have much space and mostly garden in containers--I got Duck-billed Platypus! What helped me was my deck, pond, and cats (sacks of bones). :)

    So, the determinate tomatoes that I've grown are Tiny Tim and Patio Princess, both did very well. I didn't think Tiny Tim had good flavor, though, and I'll try again this year and maybe use a different fertilizer to see if that helps.

    Your garden bones look great, by the way!

  11. Cute post! I'm only am a St. Bernard, but hey - I bring my own drinks - so I end up not caring! ;) I need to get the bungee cord off my gate, and work that pile of stones, and I'll be up to mediocre! Thanks for the laugh!

  12. Fantastic post. I was surprised to find I'm a hamster (I actually thought that was a higher rating than I deserved!). I think having a porch put me over the top but I failed to alert the judges to the fact that it's rotten. ;-)

  13. I'm a pygmy elephant too. If you count the ditch as a water feature, which I do. Your Deutzia with the Lamium looks fantabulous!

  14. I just edited my bones post to link to your bones. I know we have some of the same readers, but maybe it will bring a few more your way for a good laugh!! BTW, that deutzia is spectacular! And the viburnums are humungous! I ended up having to remove all of my viburnums this spring/summer. They have just never done as well as I had hoped and between last winter and summer, they just were not worth saving. But that's okay, because I got to rework an area and make it a little more interesting.

  15. Great fun post! If I could count a birdbath as a water feature, I am a T-Rex! Or maybe I could count my neighbor's cat that roams my garden. You didn't mention owls or hawks, but surely that should count for something! Otherwise, I am only a Bigfoot.

  16. I had fun with this, and really enjoyed your creativity! (I posted a comment yesterday to let you know I linked to your post, but it didn't show up here for some reason. Just wanted to let you know I was giving you a heads up... hmmm)

  17. St Bernard...
    fence held together by bungee cords made me laugh....except that it's true.
    I enjoyed this post....we have the same sense of humor.
    That means we could never sit together at a gardening meeting. LOL
    David/ Tropical Texana/ :0)

  18. Gosh! I will have to print the quiz out and make some of my own adjustments! Yours made me laugh! What about points given for gardener's age?!
    Or points given for gardening in 16* cold with a wind blowing 23 mph!? I bet I could gain all sorts of points and I have few structures.
    I might could find a rock. Does that count??!

  19. So much fun! I scored as you did. My garden is relatively new and I am waiting for some taller and older specimens. Thanks!

  20. Thanks for visiting my blog.
    Love your photos, and that dog is so cute. Certainly knows how to pose

  21. What a fun post! I took your test and I'm a St. Bernard :) But right now, my winter garden looks pretty pathetic. Even the plants on my back patio are pretty lame right now. Except my herbs look pretty good. But there is no color and nothing is blooming here in the hills. Sure look forward to the wildflowers of spring! But not too soon...I need a bit more cool weather before the brutal summer sets in.Again :/ But this post did make me smile :)

  22. Tammy, What a fun post and just the thing for a cold winter day! I score fairly well, although I think I have cheated on the test. I can hardly take credit for the trees which are decades old.
    Our shed is kind of embarrassing. It is a horrible metal affair that I hide behind a row of shrubs.
    One surprise that your test pointed out: I have no patio! Something to put on my wish list!
    P.S. I liked your headboard idea. Very creative!

  23. I truly enjoy every single image in this post. You capture the photographs very well. Your puppy is also very cute!

  24. I love the gate and the bungee cord. Thanks for stopping by my neck of the woods.

  25. Haha!! That was fun! I'm a pygmy elephant unless you'll allow me to count my detached garage as a free standing 'decorative' building...then I'm Big Foot!! I'm gonna count it as I've spent a lot of time trying to fix up that wall - vintage shutters and the coffee root gal! I'm feeling better about my garden already, thanks!!


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