There is no shame in harboring a plant pile

Erin Schanen

At this time of year, garden progress is measured by the size of the plant pile. It’s not a literal pile, of course, but rather a well-curated collection of homeless plants. In my mind, they all have a very specific destination, but sometimes it just takes a bit to get them there.

Until recently, I’ve harbored this plant pile secretly, thinking other gardeners would cast aspersions upon it and my general garden sense. But I’ve come to learn that I’m not alone in having a plant pile.

In fact some gardeners were celebrating their plant piles on social media, trying to get the very unfortunate hashtag #showyourpile trending. I think we can all be thankful they were unsuccessful, at least in getting people to show piles, although there’s no report on whether they managed to reduce the size of their piles.

My pile is full of garden gems — two types of Carex that will form beautiful textural foils for other plants interspersed with them, lavender and Plectranthus grown from cuttings taken in January, annuals grown from seed and dozens of dahlias, among random other plants. Yes, I need them all, despite others who have labeled it as “excessive.”

Personally, I’ve noticed that the pile has a direct effect on things beyond my garden. Delivery drivers, for instance, have gotten very creative in where they leave packages, as part of the pile is perched on the steps to the front door, effectively blocking any ingress or egress. (In case of fire, trampling the Nicotiana is allowed.) I’ve found delivered packages in the garage, on a patio chair and, most recently, when a driver clearly was sick of navigating the pile, just dumped on the lawn alongside the driveway. I can’t blame him.

Mr. Much More Patient, who puts up with a fair amount of gardening weirdness, loses patience with the pile much more quickly than I do and seems to track its size daily. With both sides of our rather wide patio serving as a spring plant parking lot, the pile is divided to form a walking path. A few weeks ago, Mr. Much More Patient demanded to know how it was that I was planting every night and yet the walking path was somehow getting narrower.

You can chalk that up to the mysteries of the plant pile. There are times (such during clearance sales or when long-since-forgotten winter orders arrive) when the pile may appear to get larger, but as I told him, the plant pile is magic and who are we mere mortals to question its intentions.

Everyone in our house, including the dogs (who simply knock over any plant pots in their way), and the delivery drivers will be happy to note that the plant pile has been drastically reduced in the last week, and there’s a good chance it may be gone by the first day of summer, which seems quite reasonable.

But it will be OK if I don’t hit that deadline, because plant piles no longer have to live in the shadows. After all, they are visible measures of gardeners’ commitments to beautifying the world. Be proud of those piles.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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