Changing Tastes

I visited a couple nurseries today and was a bit horrified by the seemingly overnight invasion of flat after flat of “spring color,” a reaction which made me wonder if I’m growing snobbish. So am I a snob? I don’t think so, just possibly confusing strong personal opinions with snobbery. I am amassing stronger opinions the older I get, exclusionary opinions that make distinctions and draw battle lines, if only for my own sense of clarity on issues. But I don’t think that strictly counts as snobbery.

Roses would be an example. No floribundas. I would never plant a rose for scentless masses of color.
(I can’t think of any plant from which I’d ask for masses of color, preferring the intriguing, shimmering inflorescences of Stipa gigantea to, for example, landscape roses, though that’s not strictly an apples-to-apples comparison.)


We can agree to disagree. Many people will prefer strong color over all else and find what I’ve come to love weedy and insubstantial. Others will find any rose unbearably old-fashioned, just as bearded irises go in and out of fashion. A mature stand of bearded irises in bloom nowadays is a rare sight in my neighborhood. These sorts of plants, bearded irises and roses, have in the past inspired extreme loyalty that overlooked any faults as garden plants. I recognize well that loyalty, since years ago I once gamely tried to make a garden out of a collection of old roses, over 30 in number of mostly noisettes and tea-noisettes, in this very same small garden. And though I loved them all, I have never felt more constrained and miserable as a gardener. Tastes change.

Reuben’s friends, Hal and Bill, invited us to visit their lovely garden, classically bricked and box-hedged, and this is but one stand of their many irises in bloom interspersed among trees of Euphorbia lambii and sprawling matilija poppies. (Who can look at bearded irises in bloom without thinking of Henry Mitchell, who took his yearly vacation the few weeks his hundreds of irises flowered, to stay home with them in their fleeting glory?)


And yet Hal and Bill were most excited by their new “meadow” of toadflax, Linaria maroccana. Tastes change.


As far as roses, I ask for intense scent, voluptuousness of bloom and iridescence of petal, preferably in a climber. Many can deliver all this.
But I’m finding I feel tyrannized when I grow more than one at a time. And the water bill doesn’t like it much either.


Right now, that one rose is the tea-noisette climber ‘Bouquet d’Or,’ and she amply represents all rosedom for me.


She makes do in a narrow gravel border with some exotic bedfellows like this beschorneria at the far end.


Tastes change.

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5 Responses to Changing Tastes

  1. ks says:

    I can tell you Denise, the color sells, including the most mundane of the lot, petunias , marigolds etc ad nauseum. The majority of the public are ‘yardeners’ not ‘gardeners’ and they want color. However unsavory, these petunia sales keep the garden centers afloat for the rest of us ! And my snobbishness knows no bounds. I feel your disdain !

  2. Pam/Digging says:

    I don’t call it snobbish either, Denise. I don’t feel superior to those who love their flats of spring color. After all, my 11-year-old daughter is drawn to them above all else at the nursery. But I don’t like it personally. It’s a matter of taste, as you say, and tastes do change. I think the more you garden, the more you appreciate form, texture, and subtlety of color. I still appreciate the old-fashioned plants for their easy beauty, like irises and shrub roses, but like you I limit their numbers in my garden.

  3. Denise says:

    Kathy & Pam, all three of us have gardens that aren’t starved for color all winter, even if it’s just green. That might be the difference in my case, and I don’t begrudge the winter-weary their strong jolt of color, like caffeine after a long snooze! I think that’s part of it. I do think the color annual syndrome goes hand-in-hand with narrow borders around lawns.

  4. Scott says:

    I don’t think it’s snobbery at all…just different taste, which of course, is alway subjective ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve been very saddened this spring by the fact that I cannot find any real ornamental grasses (except for a few Stipa gigantea, which I’d been looking for for ages!). It seems it’s now only cool to use sedges, which are ok, but not terribly dynamic…and so small ๐Ÿ™ I remember when I was younger I had such a hunger for exotics and tropicals (hey, I lived in Zone 4 Nebraska). Ironically, now that I live in Zone 8 Portland, I don’t care for those plants anymore…preferring plants with smaller, more subtle flowers and a more understated beauty…tastes certainly do change…and that’s what makes it fun ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Denise says:

    Scott, that is so interesting that your taste for exotics has cooled a bit. Coming from zone 4, you must have planted it out of your system! There’s still lots of grasses available locally, and I assumed Greenlee’s influence was wide, but apparently not in the PNW!

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