By Candy Venning

The following conversation takes place every spring between my husband and me.

Candy: What is that? Is it a weed?

Simon: I don’t know, did you plant it?

Candy: Maybe, I can’t remember, stop pestering me with questions.

Perhaps you’ve also had a similar conversation? Across every neighbourhood I imagine puffy colourful, question marks floating above many gardens – it’s natural to be mystified, and good to be observant, BUT this year I advocate a bolder attitude.

‘No guilt gardening’ is a Zen kind of place that we all need to visit. By all means, do your best to get something to survive in the garden, but know yourself, first. Recognizing the level of care you’re willing to give definitely helps (so does a rudimentary irrigation system) but experimenting with plants, finding out what does well, and discovering the plants you really enjoy is most important.

You don’t need to spend like crazy at the garden centre (although it is tempting). Take your time, share plants, grow from seed (Seedy Saturday event with Green Venture in February7th – try to make it). Hone your attention span by skipping the usual suspects & splurge on one great perennial such as ‘snakeroot’; skip the daylilies and try some Echinacea or milkweed in full sun. Go! Get some herbs – unusual ones such as verbena and even lavender are tremendous in cocktails, mocktails & tea. Nasturtiums are lovely trailing out of containers or raised garden beds while being both beautiful and edible, squash and zucchini grow like mad and can drape beautifully along an ugly chain-link fence, and butterflies and bees need nectar so consider native Ontario plants like Black-eyed Susan, blue Grama grass and Beebalm (that’s a lot of ‘B’s). If you would like more information on native plants and bees here’s a good place to start but hey – we have our friend Google to help us out – more than ever, ecologically minded organizations and field botanists online are suggesting and recommending which plants do the best in your particular microclimate.

We’re warming up to the most exciting time of the year in the gardening world and I advise that you enjoy the spring; Stretch your skills by building a raised bed, installing an irrigation system or just making a really great plan. My only caution is to avoid taking on so much that you admit defeat before ever enjoying one achievement.

But mostly; Go wild! I mean it… literally… go get some wildflowers and run with them! Buy that crazy plant you’ve always coveted – grow that thing you’ve always wondered about.  Who cares about next year and the perennial conversation …’What is that, a weed?’ because the answer may be ‘Why yes, I think it is, but you know I rather like it and so do the bees, it’s staying’