Slap-Happy Gardening

By Teo Spengler | March 1, 2022
Image by Orthosie
by Teo Spengler
March 1, 2022

As a Taurus, I should be an organized gardener, curating every leaf and bloom. The fact that I am a slap-happy gardener, selecting and installing plants almost at random, speaks to the fallacy of sun-sign astrology. If I like a plant, I find room for it in my garden. And it usually thanks me by growing happily.

Slap-Happy Gardening

I like to think of my gardening approach as intuitive and creative. And I must admit that the mishmash of blossoms and foliage and vegetables, all in a crazy-quilt of color and texture, pleases me.

But I am not entirely convinced that “inclusive” wouldn’t be a more accurate description of my planting style and gardening approach. If I see a plant I like, I tuck it in somewhere. I try to pick a location where it will look attractive. But failing that, I plant it where it will get the exposure it requires to be happy. Happy plants, happy gardener.

Gardening Design

I love to read articles on gardening design. The careful placement is impressive, as each plant is given the space it requires to mature in proper relationship to its fellows. I like the look of Japanese gardens, desert gardens, and French gardens, and find it interesting to review the rules for creating these designs.

But the ones that awaken joy for me are the cottage gardens, the mix of happy plants in a vast range of colors, big ones and small, climbers and creepers. As one fades, another grows, crowding into the space like kids at an outdoor birthday party. For me, formal gardens lack that sense of joy and spontaneity, the very qualities I seek in nature.

Plant Rescuer

This slap-happy gardening approach works well in France where I have enough room for trees and shrubs, garden beds and hedges, perennials and bulbs and annuals and herbs. In San Francisco, the yard is much smaller and the sandy soil (my neighborhood was built on a former dune) limits the plants that can thrive there.

But I indulge my desire to be inclusive by rescuing plants that others do not want in their gardens, plants that haven’t performed well or that have overstayed their welcome. People in the city dump plants, leave them outside for garbage pick-up. Whenever I see one, I bring it home and find a place for it in the house or garden. 

Since many of these plants are succulents, they all live together happily in sandy soil, without much help from me. The mix of succulents with their incredibly beautiful bright flowers makes my own garden sing a happy song.

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