Chaotic, Yet Purposeful

By Nikki Tilley | March 17, 2022
Image by Stephen Barnes
by Nikki Tilley
March 17, 2022

Most gardeners plant with a specific theme in mind. Some grow strictly vegetables in their garden. Others enjoy herb gardening, container gardening or even rock gardening. There are those who grow Japanese gardens, water gardens, or perhaps a children’s garden. When it comes to my particular gardening theme, chaos comes to mind, but in a good way.

Organized Chaos in the Garden

In my garden, there’s actually a method to the madness. I have plants of all types and they’re all over the place, but everything serves its purpose in one form or fashion and is chosen with a plan in mind. Granted, that plan doesn’t always work as imagined, hence the need for Plan B, or C, and so forth. The end result, however, seems to work out.

For the most part, I plant with pollinators in mind and welcome wildlife in my backyard. There’s a mix of native plants and wildflowers here, as well as edibles that are weaved throughout. Rather than one traditional vegetable plot or herb garden, most of mine are grown amongst the flowers. And there’s containers everywhere too – many of those are unique. I have plants that grow in tires, a computer monitor, teapots, toys, boots, a purse, drawers and more.

I don’t care for fancy schmancy, formal gardens. If you do, that’s perfectly fine. I prefer landscape designs where plants are wild and free, full of allure and meandering here and there. I have pathways that go nowhere, for instance, and others that lead to a birdbath, a specific plant, another garden space or a place to sit. There’s purpose, though it may take you a minute to figure it out.

To some people, my chaotic gardening theme might be confusing, while others dig my imagination. To me, it’s the right balance of order and chaos. It allows me to garden on the fly. My unique garden style doesn’t limit me to only planting specific things. So if I come across a different looking plant and decide to get it, I can easily find a place for it. One of the reasons containers are great. They offer so much flexibility.

Organized chaos in the garden, if done carefully, can become the perfect gardening theme for anyone. Just like container gardening, it’s flexible and you’re free to get as creative as you want. The key to making it work is ensuring that your plants are well suited to the region. For those that aren’t, stick them in a pot to bring inside or overwinter in a greenhouse.

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  • Christine
    Comment added July 11, 2022Reply

    Thank you for the advice. From our experience, we need to do it regularly.
    Athena Garden: athenagarden.org

  • Merchan's Landscaping
    Comment added June 3, 2022Reply

    This concept of ordered chaos appeals to me. I experiment with this strategy in a small scale, and despite living in Canada, I refer to it as my English country garden. It grows well on its own after one good weeding in the spring. I have a lavender hedge, a daphnia plot, a marguerite patch, and a blooming wall of hollyhocks, but I have not been able to keep rosemary alive over the winter. Well, I'll try again next year. Best wishes for your gardens

  • monica tomney
    Comment added April 19, 2022Reply

    I love this idea of organized chaos . I try this approach in a small way and although i live in Canada ,i call it my English country garden . One good weeding in spring and it does grow well all by itself . A lavender hedge , a plot of daphnia , marguerite patch and a blooming wall of hollyhocks , my one sad thing is i have not been able to keep rosemary alive through the winter . Ah well i will try again next year . happy gardens to you

    • Michelle Doll, farmer & herbalist
      Comment added April 22, 2022Reply

      Monica,
      Rosemary is a Mediterranean bush. If you'd like to overwinter one, you need to bring it indoors. It doesn't need much, the drier air won't bother it, and in the Spring you can put it back in the garden. I would keep it in a pot year-round and prune both the roots and tops each Fall. The leaves are great dried or put up in vinegar. I put snippets of sage, basil, oregano, rosemary, etc into an empty vinegar bottle, then fill it with red or white vinegar. You can use as-is or strain & recant, your choice. I never bother to strain my vinegars. The bits of herbs just add more flavor to my sauce, dressing, veggies, etc. I hope this helps you keep a rosemary going all year. They are wonderful & worth the effort.

  • Merchan's Landscaping
    Comment added April 12, 2022Reply

    If done correctly, organised chaos in the garden might become the ideal gardening theme for everybody. It's adaptable, much like container gardening, and you can be as creative as you want. The key to making it work is to make sure your plants are properly adapted to the environment.

  • Gadgetz1
    Comment added April 12, 2022Reply

    If done correctly, organised chaos in the garden might become the ideal gardening theme for everybody. It's adaptable, much like container gardening, and you can be as creative as you want. The key to making it work is to make sure your plants are properly adapted to the environment.

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