Wild Species

potsI wanted to meet Peter Korn.  I was willing to go to Sweden.  In fact, I was looking forward to the trip. Unfortunately, I didn’t have to make the  journey.  He was the lead speaker at the Perennial Plant Conference on Friday at Swarthmore.

I start from the assumption that there aren’t any plants that are hard to grow, only environments hard to recreate.  And it is probably that very challenge to create functioning microclimates that drives me.”

In a way, Peter Korn is the anti-christ of gardening.  He gardens hard, but easily.  “A plant that is planted in a bed that is similar to its natural habitat becomes much more enduring and a bed in balance doesn’t need much tending.”  Tending is what most of us I do.  I sometimes feel I never stop tending.  In fact, I am often worn out by tending.Peter

Peter Korn has succeeded where many of us fear to tread.  “My whole cultivation philosophy is about utilizing the prevailing basic pre-existing conditions to create beds and growing conditions that suit a multitude of different plants from all possible, climates and habitats.”

rootsTwo words/two concepts struck me as Peter talked.  SAND AND ROOTS.  We (I) are constantly adding compost. Compost is like a religion to gardeners.  To Peter Korn, it’s an impediment.  He prefers a well-draining and moisture holding grade of sand.  Even though the surface may dry out quicker, the bed will keeps its moisture better and allow the roots to go deeper = greater drought tolerance.  ROOTS… we all give the roots a good shaking when we take a plant out of a pot.  “The advantage of planting them out directly is that it lessens the risk of the plant developing sturdy top growth but a feeble root system…”  


Before Peter spoke, Claire Sawyers, Director of Scott Arboretum announced that there were only 20 copies of Peter’s book available for sale.  He had brought 20 copies on the airplane with him.  I am rarely the first one in line for anything, but in this case, I climbed over my companion, rushed up the stairs and secured my place in line.  The book, Peter Korns Garden:  Giving plants what they want, is published by Peter Korn. It is not yet available in the US. I recommend it – there is no fluff here…100% informative, straightforward, unpretentious.   It’s a book for gardeners.

The book can be purchased on Peter’s website:

(all photos from Peter Korns Garden)

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