it’s hard to be unique when everyone is hip

Pink Ranunculus (Double buttercup)

Pink Ranunculus (Double buttercup)

I love this bright pink flower of the Double Ranunculus bulbs I planted last fall. It began its bloom season a couple of weeks ago, as the Amethyst Flame Iris was winding down. It seems that everything else is in between cycles (okay, except for the sweet Primrose Jasmine, it’s going strong), so this has been the sole bloom of any drama over the past week. And even though I planted it in the “yellow” bed, I’m going to leave it just where it is, because it’s very happy in this spot. I have five more buds on the way, and hopefully they’ll open this week while I have company. And yes, there are more blooms in my yard, but this is the most unusual right now.

I’ve worked hard in my yard – ‘garden’, now; it used to be a yard, right? – to display my personality. Gregarious, simple lines, no clutter, a bit tropical. With the plant choice constraints that seem to exist in Central Texas due to alkaline soil, clay, rocks, extreme heat, no winter, lots of rain and then drought, and did I mention the heat? – I rely heavily on natives and adapted natives in order to hopefully get something that lives, or even thrives.

But you know what discouraged me today? I realized driving around that all the commercial areas near my home are hip to the native plantings, too. I’m sure the locally published Landscape Guide has created this monster, but even the Whataburger has some of the same plants that I’m growing. Everywhere I go, I see Esperanza, Plumbago, Bulbine, Knockout Roses, Mountain Laurels, Agaves, Grasses and Salvia Greggii. My health club has a gorgeous expanse of yellow daylilies and knockout roses together. Why am I complaining? It’s great to see beautiful blooms and not just Bermuda grass in commercial parking lots and medians.

It’s just that, I want my yard to be unique to me. I want it to be MY expression. I guess I just want more choices than what seems to work here, that I also like. There’s a lot of plants available that I could use, but they just don’t appeal to me. I like lush and bold, bright flowers. That’s pretty rare around here. Sigh. Maybe I’m just tired. Maybe I’m just annoyed cause Whataburger got my order wrong, yet again.

I love Austin, don’t get me wrong. I love keepin’ it weird. I love the whimsical attitude that permeates everything, from the Capitol 10k to the hubcabs and Velvet Elvis paintings at Chuy’s. But it’s hard to be hip, when everyone is cool.


23 thoughts on “it’s hard to be unique when everyone is hip

  1. Wish I could help, this is so pitiful sounding. Don’t give up, keep looking, researching and looking some more. I’m sure your expression is not the same as the Whataburgers!

  2. Robin, I’m still chuckling over this post … I know whereof you speak. I have that same need to be unique, do things differently, stretch the boundaries. I say take yourself out and about on some nursery jaunts to find plants that speak to you and that you haven’t seen used elsewhere! Trust me, they’re there … I know whereof I speak!

    Oh, yeah, I’d forgotten to tell you last week I’d be delighted for you to join in taking a look through the garden gate on Mondays. How about we link to each other next Monday and ask others to show us a glimpse through their gates?

  3. Look at it this way, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If others are beginning to use “your” plants, then you must be doing something right! And from all the photos I’ve seen of your yard, I think it’s still unique and very beautiful. You are lucky to live in the Austin area where “keeping it weird” is a good thing!

  4. Oh, man, I didn’t want to sound pitiful! Obviously, I was whining a bit. Or a lot. Thanks for laughing with me, not at me!

  5. Cindy, I’m glad to know I have others who know how I feel. I definitely need to get to a new nursery, that’s true! And I love your idea – let’s do a Monday “Through the Garden Gates”. I think that’s a great idea. Let’s start next Monday? Thanks for the idea.

  6. Nola, thanks for the reminder. I think my yard is pretty, too – I guess I’m just needing something a little different. And I’m even seeing the same plants at the corner gas station where I fill up my car. Okay, I’ll stop whining – it still better than looking at weeds, isn’t it? And I AM lucky to live in weird Austin, I know.

  7. Well, you should live here in East Texas. Everything just grows its little heart out! I’ve lived in central and west Texas. But it’s best here.

  8. I’m still chuckling, Robin. You are right, it IS wonderful that native and well-adapted plants have been adopted by pedestrian commercial establishments. But it can make the early adopter gardener want to branch out in a less-traveled direction. I agree with Cindy–go nursery shopping for something new and different. You’ll find a world of exciting plants out there. They may not all be as easy as the ones Whataburger has chosen, but at least you’ll have fun experimenting with them.

  9. I know, Pam, I laughed at myself as well. To have such a bad problem – that local commercial establishments adopt native plantings, mulching and sustainable practices! I definitely need to visit a different nursery – perhaps a trip to Georgetown or similar? I was thrilled to find the new Salvia and Canna at Natural Gardener, but even so, I need something FUN to plant! Well, okay….my new lemon tree is fun. I think I’m probably just whining.

  10. Robin,

    This is hilarious! But you know what, I bet Whataburger & Co. got their ideas from YOU.

    Love the ranunculus too–I’ve always been a fan. And I bet Whataburger does not have a pink ranunculus in their yellow bed. So there.

  11. I love the ranunculus. I had no idea that we could grow it here. Since I started blogging it has opened my eyes to a whole host of plants I had no idea we could grow here. Of course the landscapers are using the plants of the moment . It has always been that way. In England the Victoians used grasses all the time until they went out of fashion. Guess what? They are back in fashion again. Seeds offer a wonderful opportunity to try different plants for a small amount of money and if they don’t work so what. That’s the fun of gardening. That knockout rose. Who cares if every landscaper is using it. It is the easiest rose to grow and I’m going to grow it. We have to have some easy things.

  12. You are very right, Jenny. We definitely need to grow some easy things! And a great idea to use seeds to try some “iffy” plants. Pam/Digging is trialing some new Proven Winners that look fun. Hey, I think I just need to visit some different nurseries, try some plants online even if someone says it might not do well here, and look at the gorgeous plants that are blooming instead of the ones that aren’t here. It’s sort of like HGTV – the more I watch it, the more I see the flaws in my own home. When I see gorgeous gardens like yours and others, I wish for more in my own. Okay, that sounds like jealousy or envy, doesn’t it? But hey guess what? I have some beautiful ranunculus blooming!

  13. I’ve been where you are. Actually, I’m still there. After a while, salvia greggii can seem old and tired as does bulbine and Cenizo ’cause everyone has it. I’ve been scouring books and catalogs for new/different plants for years, but it’s hard because our climate limits us and planting an unusual non-native is a risk if it becomes invasive or costly if it dies. Still, every property is unique despite using the same plants. I use benches, bird baths, rocks, pots and urns to make my garden different. What’s more ironic for me is I usually like stuff that isn’t so “cool” initially when suddenly what I like comes into fashion, and then (like you) I’m just like everyone else.

  14. Are you in Austin, Laura? I didn’t see a link to a blog; I would love to see your garden. I think I make it much harder on myself, really. Because I want unique plants, I tend to not grow the easy ones. Then I end up frustrated because I don’t have as many blooms as I see in native gardens! I hope its just a phase, right? I think really its a lack of patience on my part – most of my flowering plants are only a year old, and last year they grew not an inch because of the severe drought conditions. So my baby plants aren’t putting on much of a show, especially in my shady yard. I do have some rosebuds coming soon, though! Do you have a favorite unique plant in your yard?

  15. Oh, Robin – could not stop laughing at this too-true post, even as my maternal instincts make me want to pat you on the back and say “There, there, honey…it will be okay”. Your garden is so young – it hasn’t had time to dazzle you yet and things like your lemon tree don’t seem likely to show up in mass plantings!

    The commercial thing is not new. I can remember saving up to buy the recently introduced Stella d’Oro daylily back in the eighties, a very, very pricey plant at the time. It was given a place of honor and tended carefully….then a few years later landscapers used hundreds of Stellas around every McD’s or shopping center entrance.

    I don’t know if my fragrant peach iris count as cool – but if you want some, they’re yours.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  16. I know you are very correct, Annie, that a big part of my frustration is the youthfulness of my plants. With last year’s major re-landscaping because of the new fence, I have mostly new beds now as you know. And with the summer of hell we had last year, nothing grew, it just barely survived. So it feels as though, even after my countless sweaty hours of hard work and mucho dinero, I still don’t have much to show for it. And you’re right, a lemon tree definitely won’t be at the Whataburger! And I would LOVE some of your fragrant peach iris – I have the perfect spot for them. Thanks so much for the offer!

  17. Pingback: Garden Bloggers Bloom Day- April, 2009 « Getting Grounded

  18. See, that’s one reason I refuse to plant yellow lantana. It just screams “gas station plant!” to me. I’d never plant another Stella d’Ora daylily for the same reason. I’m just so sick of both of them and they can take their garish yellow flowers and shov– heh. I have nothing against those plants, really, I just wish that landscape designers weren’t such sheep that they decided every commercial building in the entire United States just couldn’t be taken seriously without some rough-looking clumps of Stella d’Oro guarding the perimeter.

    But really, after years of seeing people plant either those freaking Stella d’Oro daylilies or impatiens or petunias around every store sign up in WI, I don’t mind at all that the trend around here’s planting natives– I think of it as a challenge for me to combine native/adapted plants in ways the commercial landscape designers haven’t experimented with yet, because you have to admit that all of those native plantings tend to look awfully similar with the same 6 plant choices carefully spaced like candles on a frosted field of mulch. There’s plenty of room for innovation, even if you stick with the stuff that we all plant because it’s hard to kill. You don’t see Whataburger eradicating the homogenous carpet of mulch around their featured native plants in favor of a classy shag carpet of catmint or thyme planted around those islands of huge miscanthus at the drive-thru*, or the credit union experimenting with using native plants in a lush English garden style. I’m convinced that some of the most creative results occur when rebellious, intelligent people are forced work within constraints. I’m having some of the most fun I’ve ever had gardening planting my entire front yard around the theme of “flower moat”– mo’ thorns, mo’ better, and you gosh-darned annoying people stay off my lawn!

    *Quite a clash of the metaphors there, I admit it.

    Anyway, that was refreshing. All that said, well, I do see your point about variety despite my loquacious tangent. After such a very long day, I suspect that I just needed get my rant on. ;D

  19. Thank you, Ms. Twain, for that perspective! Seriously, you’ve made a good point that helps me. I’ve been rebelling by trying to use different plants, which makes it hard to find new stuff and much of it doesn’t thrive. So if I can redirect my creativity to use the hardy plants in a new way, then perhaps my need for personal expression can be resolved. You are a great example of using natives in that wonderful cottage style, and you always give me great ideas that I can evolve into my own style.

    And yes, it is a great relief to not see these huge beds of annuals that they used too much in the Dallas/Fort Worth area where I grew up. I remember how they would bring in a crew overnight and change out some huge planting from winter annuals to summer annuals using hundreds, or even thousands of plants all at once. I always felt sad for the plants that got ripped out too soon.

    And who can blame the landscape designers for using natives? The city promotes it, and it’s a good thing for all of us. I would much rather see Plumbago and Esperanza at the gas station on the corner than I would Bermuda grass and petunias and holly. I’m obviously suffering from impatience (heehee, I typed impatiens there first) as my baby plants are slow to mature in this drought.

    And by the way, I want some of what you’re having! That was a big ol’ mouthful of $3 words! I’m going to have to put you on probation as a Sweet Potato Queen if you keep talking like that!

  20. Gee, thanks, Robin! Up ‘til now I was happy to see more use of native plants. I kind of like being a little different too. I had not thought about how I would feel when all the gas stations and fast food joints are growing the same plants I am. I think we will still differentiate ourselves from the commercial sites with more diversity and style. They are likely to stick to a simple design of three or four plant varieties, while we will continually make our gardens more diverse and complex because there is always one more plant we just have to find a place for in our gardens.

  21. You are very right on, bluestem, we definitely take more risks with our plantings than the commercial sites. I know from personal experience that Austin is much more “native oriented” than your part of Texas, so you probably aren’t seeing your yard coming and going yet, like I feel I do around here. And there is always just one more plant, isn’t there? My list is ridiculously longer than my budget!

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