i n n e s o t a Z e n G a r d e n
THE FAR EAST,
A GARDENER CREATES A BOUNDARY-CROSSING STYLE ALL HIS OWN
FROM FISH TO FERNS
|The home didn't
have much of a garden when he bought it. But he was inspired by the gardens
of some of his neighbors, including Louise Johnson, who won the Public
Broadcasting System's Silver Trowel award in 1994 for her terraced front
yard. "I would go and look at her garden. I think she thought I was stalking
her," Handtmann said.
After he introduced himself and told Johnson he admired her garden, she decided he was "a real nice fellow. . . . He's watched what I've done and done his own thing," she said.
At first, Handtmann wasn't particular about what he planted. "I used to buy plants at the end of the season. I didn't even know what they were. If it was a cheap plant, I'd buy it."
People also gave him plants and cuttings, and sometimes he helped himself. The wild grapevine that now covers his side fence originally was growing on his neighbor's side. "There were knotholes in the fence, and I pulled a few pieces through." (And this year, there was a bonus: sweet, edible grapes.) The Virgina creeper that now climbs his arbor started from a section he pulled off the side of a garage.
Handtmann's resourcefulness also is reflected in his garden accessories. The thick stalks of bamboo that he uses as decorative elements originally were tiki torches. He bought them at Big Lots ("Like Pier 1, only cheaper," he said), removed the torches and put them in metal lamps that he uses for nighttime illumination.
Night, in fact, is his favorite time in the garden. "I love being here at night. I salvaged a bunch of lights so it's well-lit. I do most of my major gardening at night. I can squint and see shapes, and nothing is washed out."
The garden, which is "still a work in progress," is fairly labor-intensive in the spring and fall, Handtmann said, although fall has gotten easier because he doesn't rake. Instead, he clears the paths, throws the leaves onto his beds and has "one big cleanup in the spring."
But it's a labor of love, and the two are related, he believes.
"People ask me to do their gardens, but I say, 'It's your garden; you've gotta do it -- that's the only way you'll care about it.' "
Jim Handtmann's Gardening Tips
Build it up. If your garden is flat, use berms to add height and visual interest.
Choose plantings that
ensure your garden will have some color during the fall months, such as burning
bush, asters and mums.
Wrong spot? Move it.
"Some people think that
wherever they plant something, that's the end," Handtmann said. But moving
plants is "like rearranging furniture; nothing is permanent until it gets
too big to move. For the first two or three years you can change your mind.
Just don't transplant in July or August."
Sights to behold.
Create destination spots
in your garden that aren't immediately visible -- "something that you have
to go around the corner to see," Handtmann said.
The wonder of weeds.
Creeping charlie, the
bane of many homeowners, is welcome in Handtmann's yard. "It makes a nice
ground cover," he said. "It flows and blooms."
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