"What I've learned in thirty plus years of gardening is that if you don't try to dictate to nature, it can do surprising and beautiful things."

Mary's Garden Tips

1. Take time to savor the inconspicuous, the invisible, the unexpected - for instance, the flash of iridescent turquoise from a tiny beetle, the delicate scent of spicebush flowers and the pungency of tomato leaves, the twig that turns out to be a praying mantis, the patterns of spore cases on the underside of fern fronds. A hand lens is a valuable garden tool.

2. Be acutely aware of water as an increasingly scarce resource, even here in the green East. Choose plants that, once established, rarely need more water than rain brings; group plants that are likely to need extra (saving work as well as water); grade and plant so that rainwater soaks into the ground instead of running off.

3. Make your garden a good neighbor to the gardens and gardeners around you, and especially to nearby natural areas, parks, and roadsides. Invasive, hard-to-control alien plants, a nuisance in gardens, are a serious threat to the native plants of our dwindling natural habitats. Many of these non-natives, such as English ivy and purple loosestrife, are familiar garden plants; others, such as Japanese stilt grass and garlic mustard, have been brought to this continent inadvertently and are as unwelcome to gardeners as to preserve managers. Either way, removing or controlling them in your own yard can help slow their spread and thus benefit all of us.

4. Bring new perspectives and pleasures to your gardening by reading. Elizabeth Lawrence on magenta, Allen Lacy on nursery catalogs' plant descriptions (a delightful send-up), Henry Mitchell on the wild petunias in his alley, Craig Childs on water, Barbara Damrosch on vegetables… enjoy exploring!

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