Good question! I’ve never heard of a gardening class that brought up the style with which you garden. And style can be key to the pleasure you get, and pleasure can be key to your staying with it, and staying with it can be key to your health and your saving money.
Think of buying clothes. The most important criterion is function. Does it fit well? Does it provide the protection you want against cold or wind or rain or pebbles on the ground? Will it be durable? But style is what gives you pleasure as you pass a mirror and assurance as you enter a new situation.
Gardening classes are function oriented. There you learn how to be as productive as possible in whatever space you have, whatever you wish to use it for. But the style of your garden is what brings you pleasure as you show visitors around and explain your accomplishments.
To better illustrate what I mean, I’ll take a chance and get personal. Nancy and I are both long time gardeners, but our styles are quite different. She loves plants and can find some virtue in almost any plant, virtue that would never occur to me. It has a pretty flower. It attracts pollinators. Oh, I thought I’d lost all of those. My friend may be coming to get some roots (dandelion). It repels those nasty bugs. It’s a great companion plant. It’ll make good compost tea. … She can find something in her long and varied experience to support her not uprooting almost anything that pops up anywhere, at least not uprooting it right away. (Ok, grass is an exception!)
I was taught that a weed is a plant that is growing out of place. I like to see clear aisles and clear mulched ground between my plants and having them in rows is attractive to me. Immigrants are not welcome in my plant beds and berry patches. So, while helping each other is always very much in order, we mostly garden separately. (And she produces all our veggies!)
The point of all this? As you get into gardening and see how others do it, remember to separate function from style. You can the duplicate successful function that you see while implementing it in your own style, whatever that may be. Then it will bring you more satisfaction and you’ll try harder and stay with it longer.
Don is a native of Schenectady (Mont Pleasant HS, '42) and graduated from Union in '48 (after three years in the Army). He then received a PhD in Physics from Princeton in '51. He joined the GE Research Lab in '52 and retired in '85. He built a passive solar house in Rexford in '80 and then he and his wife Nancy built their present active solar house across the street in '07 and '08. (They're really enjoying it!) They're both very active gardeners with Don having a special interest in berries, ginseng and woodland plants.