Garden Patina

Growing an established garden.

Written by Charlie Thigpen


You often hear people say they want a shiny new car, but you don’t ever hear anyone say they want a shiny new garden. In fact most people want their new gardens to immediately look established and aged. Landscapes take time to develop, but we’re lucky that we live in the warm South and have a long growing season and adequate moisture. This allows moss, plants, and lichens to grow fairly quickly and give our gardens that wonderful character and patina that shimmers green and enhances the look of our time-tested landscapes.


Patience, Patience, Patience

If there is one thing gardening teaches us, it is to be patient. We cannot snap our fingers and make a green tomato on the vine turn red. Only Mother Nature can make a tomato ripen, and sometimes she takes her own sweet time. You also cannot plant a rose and expect it to cover a trellis or an arbor in a few days. You must understand that gardening is a process that takes time, maintenance, and just the right environment to develop properly.


Don’t Plant Too Much 

Overplanting is a huge mistake homeowners make as they try to fill their gardens quickly.  A few years down the road, an overgrown garden becomes a mess. Then plants are pulled and many of the ones that are left are misshaped and leggy from being planted too close together. It is wise to know a plant’s ultimate height and width before planting and space accordingly so your garden will mature properly.


P1060810Incorporating Old Into a New Garden

Vintage items such as old gates, doors, planters, shutters, garden tools, windows, or architectural relics can be incorporated into a new or existing landscape to give it more of an aged or established look. A little rust or peeling paint will also add weathered character to your yard. Place these unique items strategically where they may be seen or where they may become a focal point. Use these relics in your garden as you would artwork in your home.


Speed Up the Process

New planters made of terra cotta or concrete may be stained to knock off some of their newness and to tone down the clean finish. You can also mix soil and water together to make a mud mixture that may be smeared onto planters to give them a weathered look.


A Growing Solution

Over time, stone or brick walls will grow moss and lichens, making the hardscape come alive. Vines, such as creeping fig or Boston ivy, will also attach to these walls, converting them into living walls. The Boston ivy is fast-growing and will cover walls much more quickly than the creeping fig, but this aggressive vine will also need to be pruned often to keep it in bounds.

Enjoy and embrace your garden’s aging process and watch it develop through the years. Remember that a garden is never finished; it evolves with each passing season and hopefully it will develop that wonderful patina that only comes with age and time.

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