Folly by Ivan Spaller

October 11th, 2008
My Folly

folly |ˈfälē|
noun ( pl. -lies)
1 lack of good sense; foolishness : an act of sheer folly.
2 a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, esp. a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.

A new visitor to Zanthan Gardens last week openly admired my failed garden house project. Seeing it through someone else’s eyes, someone who did not know the history of the project and thus did not have any of the negative associations was refreshing. Yes, it was time I got over it and got on with it, I who do not get over things easily, if at all.

I spent the day moving the potted plants out from under the protection of the back porch (where they can’t be seared by summer’s pitiless sun) to the deck. I took down the raccoon barrier. I suspect that I will have a lot of broken pots and shredded plants in the pond tomorrow. But I’m working on developing a devil-may-care attitude.

On seeing the gray wall, many people have suggested that I paint it pink or purple in keeping with a Mexican-inspired folk theme that is common in my South Austin neighborhood. I often wonder if I give off the aura of an old South Austin hippie. Although I have lived here since the mid-1970s, I never was a hippie…not even in the day. (Not that I have anything against hippies; it’s just that I’ve never been in with the cool crowd, not even then.)

You see, I like the gray wall. We planned it that way. And it was the only part of the project that turned out even vaguely like we wanted. I like the way the bright green of the leaves and the yellow of the chairs (and the cannas when they’re in bloom) are intensified by the contrast against the gray.


And if the wall were pink, it would really clash with the reds of the oxblood lilies nearby. And the orange dragonfly.


Zanthan Gardens Wild
The baby blue eyes took over the back border, smothering everything in their path. I find them beautiful in their own right and let them have their way.

March 28th, 2008
The Weed Garden, My Garden Wild

At Diana’s yesterday, with Bonnie and Pam, stuffing welcome packets for the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling, I realized how comparatively few garden plants I have in my garden. I decided I’d better set expectations for any Spring Fling visitors who are stopping by before Friday’s dinner at Matt’s El Rancho. (Anyone on the Friday dinner list is invited. Let me know if you need directions.)

Noted Austin landscape architect, Ivan Spaller said of me and my garden, “[She] spends her days toiling away in a weed-infested garden…”

And so I do. My garden is big and my budget is small. So I rely heavily on weeds to fill in the empty spaces.

Zanthan Gardens Wild
Visitors are often drawn to the bright fleshy leaves of the false dayflowers, Commelinantia anomala, only to recognize them close up and say in disappointment, “Oh. It’s that.” But I love how fresh and crisp the foliage looks and who can resist a flower with a face like this?
Commelinantia anomala

I also rely heavily on the false dayflower’s cousin, the spiderwort. It was in full bloom when I first saw this house and, in part, is what made me fall in love with this place. I try to confine it to the mini-woods but it insists on popping up in the meadow, the lawn, and the vegetable garden.
Commelinantia anomala

The cilantro, which I grow to eat, has taken over the meadow. It bloomed a month before the larkspur this year and makes an excellent filler.
Zanthan Gardens Wild

I do manage my garden of weeds, edit it. In order to give it some semblance of a garden, I think it’s important to clump like weeds together–a drift of cilantro, or baby blue eyes, or spiderwort. I will pull the lone larkspur out of a clump of Love-in-a-mist. I transplant self-sown plants where I want them rather than where they’ve come up. Imposed order is what differentiates the garden from nature. And yet, in a wild garden one must have a light touch. I was made very happy when two different people asked me if my violas had self-sown (no) because they were not planted in the typical straight lines of bedding out plants.

Zanthan Gardens Wild

I think I’ve always been guided, unwittingly, by a poem I wrote when I was seventeen–before I ever imagined myself a gardener.

I am a garden wild;
Growing thriving,
Reaching leafy green tentacles
In curious search.
I am, they say, haphazard, untamed,
Existing most improperly
in a world full of gardeners.

Zanthan Gardens Floribunda Ivan Spaller

May 8th, 2007
We Have a Plan

Zanthan Gardens Floribunda Ivan Spaller

Ivan delivered the plans this morning. The gray rectangles are new beds to plant. Hmmm. They get a fair amount of sunlight….

Zanthan Gardens Floribunda Ivan Spaller

I’ll have to look at this pictures every day to keep me going. Right now there is a small mountain of dirt and nowhere to put it.