When it comes to American gardens, I’m no expert. I’m a British gardener. More specifically, I’m a Welsh gardener. I have lived in Wales all my life and I have a pretty privileged spot here on the West Coast, with a great climate (for Wales) and the benefit of the Gulf Stream.
The image I have always held of American gardens has been somewhat stereotypical. So what does this view look like? Images of suburbia, beautifully tended lawns, mailboxes, rocking chairs on the porch, picture perfect neighbourhoods, and the odd shrub or tree here and there. All very green with little else in between. This view has been largely influenced by television and other media sources, although my own naive assumptions may have gone a long way in bringing these stereotypes and idealised images together. I’m not usually one to form assumptions or be so highly influenced by media images, but how else do I form such mental images when living on an all-together different continent?
That narrow view of American gardens is somewhat alien to me these days. So what happened for me to arrive at such an epiphany? I have three major influences: Blogger, Twitter, and Blotanical. The Internet is a marvellous resource and has brought me closer to America than I have ever been before. Joining these websites, reading hundreds of blogs, and receiving comments from American gardeners on my personal blog has made me realise that America is rather diverse in horticultural terms. I have attempted to learn all about “zones” and it appears that I live in USDA Hardiness Zone 9, although I think the UK hardiness scale is somewhat different than that of the U.S. For example, many of the plants in my garden are at the same stage of development as those in the garden of a Twitter friend north of Boston, which I believe to be in Zone 6. A very complex issue indeed.
I have regular conversations on Twitter with fellow gardeners in the U.S., and I’ve discovered that, like in the UK, there is no such thing as a stereotypical American gardener. As in Wales, you get your specialists, your generalists, and of course the downright strange (the best of the bunch in my opinion.) So what’s the moral of the story, I hear you ask? Well, from what I’ve deduced, it’s that we are closer, in horticultural terms, than we often think. Design, planting, influences, and staple plants tend to be similar, although individuality is everpresent. I have learned more from American gardeners online than I ever could from the stereotypes I have been used to, and for that I thank you! Nowadays it is these individuals who help me to develop my views of America and, of course, the gardens therein.
Gardening, be it American, British, or otherwise, should not be about fashion, a demonstration of wealth, or a stereotype. In my opinion it should be a reflection of you, the individual.
—Ryan Lewis gardens in West Glamorgan, Wales, in Great Britain and blogs at http://ryans-garden.blogspot.com/.