Ordered Chaos

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In every home there is a place where unfolded laundry is thrown and a week’s worth of junk is shoved when guests rap upon the door unexpectedly. For some lucky souls it may be a spare room. For others it might be a more traditional space like a large basket, basement, garage, attic, or even a cupboard under the stairs that houses brooms and small boys named Harry. But the fact is, it exists. To pretend otherwise, to make believe that your entire home looks like the inside of Martha Stewart Living every minute of every day is asking a great deal of your audience; and to pretend that your storage/organizational areas are just as tastefully outfitted as your master bedroom is bordering on the delusional. Believe me, I love beautiful objects and beautiful rooms, but maintaining the status quo 24/7 while children, husband and pets insist on living with me is about as pointless as pointless can get.

Luckily for people like me, a bit of disarray is quite attractive in a garden setting. Nothing is prettier than stacks of upturned terracotta pots waiting to be filled with pansies or petunias, and after a long day’s work, a pitchfork leaning against a tree doesn’t seem as incongruous as a fine oak floor scattered with three backpacks, five shoes and a couple of hoodies in varying sizes of dirty little boy. Of course things can get messy out there, but apologies to one’s visitors are unnecessary if the mess in your garden is part and parcel of its charm.

However, if you’ve found yourself tripping over a rogue spade one too many times, you may feel the need for a bit more order. And just as it’s nice to have a place in one’s house where all the ‘stuff’ gets stored, stuffed or stashed to control the clutter between major clean-ups, there is certainly something to be said for confining well-used tools, pots, stakes, tie-backs and all manner of assorted garden paraphernalia to a centrally located area within your garden. Doing so makes caretaking far more pleasurable, and infinitely more convenient.

A potting station is a great place to start. All you need is a table of some sort, a couple weatherproof totes for storage, and a few pots – this doesn’t need to be an expensive project. While I am the first to admit that $650 teak potting benches are indeed beautiful, they are sadly not vital; and many people that I know (including myself) use an old patio table.

My potting station is a brick patio that used to be our outside eatery. When we built our deck, I converted it into a handy area to pot up hundreds of seedlings, re-pot hundreds more and store all the soil, soil amendments and tools necessary to the process. Here, everything is at my fingertips and a wooden chair makes it comfortable to boot. This area also becomes a convenient catch-all for homeless pots, plants and equipment until they can be properly put away in their rightful places: a garden “sorting house” if you will.

Other people use a back porch or another sheltered area to prolong the life of newly potted plants and errant tools. And, thanks to years and years of magazine covers extolling the rustic beauty of all things garden, it can pass for fairly attractive whilst still being extremely functional. I suppose that means we must thank Martha Stewart after all – – you go first.

Putting this potting station in place is one of the best changes I have ever made to my garden.  Soil no longer covers my deck, porch or kitchen table in the spring; my equipment and supplies are conveniently at hand; and there is always a place to lean that rogue spade or a pocket full of hand tools if I don’t feel like taking the time to put them away properly.  In short, it is as handy as a basket at the foot of the stairs or a utility room off of the kitchen – a place where work gets done, stuff gets stashed and I can smile at the mess and look away…still smiling.

There is no such thing as a perfect home. There is no such thing as a perfect garden. Clear your mind of such silliness and set aside areas to make your life work more efficiently. Whether it is a spare room stacked with winter coats that need packing away or a potting table filled with a hundred geraniums, one must embrace these spaces for the life savers they are.

By | 2018-02-20T20:41:33+00:00 May 6th, 2011|

About the Author:

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Marianne is the mother of two, wife of one and the voice of The Small Town Gardener. She gardens and writes from her home in the scenic (and exceptionally convenient) heart of Virginia's wine country.

2 Comments

  1. Donna May 8, 2011 at 8:07 am - Reply

    I certainly needed your post today as I look around at the ordered chaos of my house and garden…I love to pot on the front porch as I lean out over the driveway…everything is close by…for pots out back I sit on the patio steps and pot away…

  2. John May 14, 2011 at 10:06 am - Reply

    I certainly need a potting station as comfortable as yours appears to be. Come to think of it I could use a potter to take care of the forty or fifty plants in varying degrees of transition at the moment. Not to mention the many little guys that have been purchased and are waiting for that perfect spot in the garden to magically appear…

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