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Serendipity is one of my favorite words. According to Google, “ser·en·dip·i·ty is the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”. Due to the nature of chance as it applies to gardens, I often think of it as a design principle in landscape design. In a quote from my book,

Understanding Garden Design: “While not officially a design principle, serendipity, or good luck, cannot be ignored as a factor that has the potential to impact the design of a garden. One year I planted several highly attractive and unusually colored violas in my garden. Serendipitously, they seeded around, expanding their realm, and created quite a beautiful massed planting. Then serendipity turned sour. The adjacent gravel path offered a charmed life for the violas. A few were delightful, few more a bit cheeky, and the eventual flood became the curse of my path. Serendipity does not necessarily stand the test of time, but there is always a chance it might provide more than an ephemeral effect for which you will be grateful.”

I once tried to remove the asters from this composition until this happened in the fall.

I once tried to remove the asters from this composition until this happened in the fall.

I bring it up now because someone recently reminded me of a talk that I gave several years ago during January entitled Intentional Serendipity which has a slightly altered meaning. The presentation was specifically for a group of people learning more about creating sustainable gardens.

Gardens are by definition a contrived space in which man bends Nature to his will. But Nature has a good deal more perspicacity than man. Don’t we gardeners often unconsciously concoct situations in our gardens where Nature says, “Aha! Opportunity!”? Perhaps as we go about gardening, we should consider living with less expectation and more anticipation.

I thought this Tetrapanax had disappeared with a hard winter, but voila! It's back and perhaps in a slightly better location. We'll see.

I thought this Tetrapanax had disappeared with a hard winter, but voila! It’s back and perhaps in a slightly better location. We’ll see.

I’ve begun interspersing some plants with not just the notion that I will like them together, but also with the inkling that I am setting up a contest to see which will plant will become the ‘dominatrix’ and which will become the ‘submissives’. What better time to plan a Fifty Shades of Grey approach to planting design than in January? This year I anticipate some results from some intentional intermingling of the many newly planted areas of last year. So stay tuned.

Persicaria 'Painter's Palette' originally planted itself beneath my Forest Pansy Redbud. It's been such a nice marriage that I have allowed it to spread beneath the tree - only. I pull it from another location.

Persicaria ‘Painter’s Palette’ originally planted itself beneath my Forest Pansy Redbud. It’s been such a nice marriage that I have allowed it to spread beneath the tree – only. I pull it from another location.

Originally conceived to scramble around as a skirt, Geranium 'Ann Folkard, is vine-like in its ability to also scramble into adjacent shrubs. It gives the appearance of a shrub blooming all summer, though. Serendipitous.

Originally conceived to scramble around as a skirt, Geranium ‘Ann Folkard, is vine-like in its ability to also scramble into adjacent shrubs. It gives the appearance of a shrub blooming all summer, though. Serendipitous.

For 2014, however, I know there are a number of things that I should do to improve my intentions. I intend to:

  • irrigate plants adequately
  • create healthy soil with plenty of proper drainage and mycorrhizae
  • assure that plants have the correct amount of light,
  • use organic methods of maintenance
  • select healthy plants based on their ability to thrive in my climate without being invasive

These are must-have intentions that enhance serendipity. While there are a few more things I might do, I have to acknowledge that the rest is up to Mother Nature.

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