When you are working in your garden, what inspires you? Who inspires you?
A garden is a labor of love, an artistic expression. To me, my garden is like a living artist’s palette. And that is why I think sometimes I get twitchy about my garden. It’s my creativity and sweat equity. Ideas that begin in my head, take shape out of the earth from my hands.
I love to inspire but I do not wish to see my garden recreated everywhere necessarily.
Inspiration is very different from copying.
No one designed my garden for me. I used no landscape computer program. I took what I have loved in every garden I have ever had and inspiration from garden writers I admire from Gertrude Jekyll to Rosemary Verey to Penelope Hobhouse to Suzy Bales to Chester County’s David L. Culp. With my current garden the last two garden writers have been particularly influential.
David Culp’s The Layered Garden is not only visually a thing of beauty but so informative as well. The whole concept of a layered garden appeals to me because a layered garden has many different elements. It’s not just one dimensional, it’s multi dimensional. It’s a feast for the eyes and senses.
Then there are the books by Suzy Bales. I made Mrs. Bales acquaintance via email a few years ago after reading her book Suzy Bales’ Down to Earth Gardener: Let Nature Guide You to Success in Your Garden. Again, a visually beautiful gardening book, but more than that. It is loaded with practical advice.
When I decided on a whim to write Mrs. Bales and tell her how much I loved her book and how she was inspiring me, to my delight she wrote me back. We corresponded here and there and she sent me autographed copies of her other books. I treasure them. Her other book I refer to often is The Garden in Winter: Plant for Beauty and Interest in the Quiet Season.
I was thinking about Mrs. Bales’ books again as I was preparing to write this post and quite sadly I discovered she passed away this March from cancer. What a loss. She was so kind to me every time I wrote to her about gardening. You can find an archive of some of her gardening articles on Huffington Post. What a nice lady and an amazing gardener. And so generous with her time and knowledge.
So my point? Don’t copy someone else’s garden or think some landscape computer program is all you need to have someone else plant your garden. Being inspired is not copying what someone else does including acquiring all of the cultivars they have. Being inspired means crafting your own vision. Getting your hands dirty learning from trial and error.
This is part of the fun of doing your own garden– you can try your ideas out and it’s much more cool (at least to me) than walking around after some random landscaper has put their commercial version of your vision to work. It is just more satisfying.
Anyone can garden. Truly. Buy yourself some basic gardening books so you learn techniques. Join an online gardening group. I joined my first online gardening board easily 2o plus years ago. It was the rose gardeners board on AOL. I made friends on that board from across the country that I still am connected to today. I even started a gardening group on Facebook of my own that has over 500 gardeners in it. We share photos, ask each other questions, inspire each other.
Gardening is truly individualistic. I literally stand outside (when I probably should be weeding) and day dream about what I would like to see. Gardening writers like Suzy Bales and David Culp really help my envisioning because of their practical advice and beautiful gardens which leap off the pages of their books. I don’t want their exact garden in my garden, they inspire me to be creative on my own. I figure if they can do it, I can do it.
Occasionally I have help if something is say too big for me to handle planting on my own. I also don’t do lawns, I kill lawns. I have an experienced arborist. So I do have help, although I do most of my gardening myself. I have learned to tell people I am employing to help me what I want specifically, that way everyone is happy especially me since it’s my garden. And the people who occasionally help me know I am a benevolent dictator who gets her hands dirty and her face smudged with dirt.
Bit by bit my garden is coming to life on all four sides of our home. It is trial and error. Some plants don’t make it so I either try them again, or try new ones. And I am definitely layering. For size , smell, type, bloom cycle, season, colors. It’s a crazy quilt of my own design. Inspired by other gardens and gardeners, but uniquely my own. I don’t pretend to know everything or every proper Latin name. I plant what I like. Sometimes I have researched the plants and a lot of times they are impulse buys because I like the way they look and can envision them in my garden.
So think about it: what inspires you in your garden? Let me know!
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This azalea is gorgeous! I purchased it last year from Applied Climatology in the West Chester Growers Market.
I am having a love affair with my garden again. We were having a love hate relationship the past two weeks because of the weeds that seem to grow by the hour and then by the minute because of all the rain.
The spring bulbs are done, the azaleas are blooming, the viburnum are starting to pop, and the roses are all budded out for their first bloom cycle.
The hostas have popped up everywhere and the ferns are luscious this year. I did lose some things with the weird weather we had over the winter including some echinacea that I thought were bulletproof.
The hydrangea are struggling this year a bit. They were fine until that last little cold snap that fried their new green buds just emerging from their winter’s sleep.
Haven’t seen a lot of the annuals I like other than herbs, so there will be less of those in the garden unless some have self seeded. The lilies of the valley my neighbors gave me are gorgeous and very happy. They are growing with Creeping Jenny under a tree.
New for this year I have decided to go after a slope that slopes down to the woods on one side of our property. It has nice light and I separated it into sections. One section closer to the house has been planted with lilacs. I envision a beautiful hill of blooms and lilacs perfuming the air in a few years.
Next to that I will be planting some more azaleas and hydrangeas and I’m not sure what else. On the other side of that is my even bigger experiment. I have planted raspberry and gooseberry and thornless blackberry bushes. I have Elderberry that is going crazy along with one surviving currant plant on the other side of the garden, so in a few years I will either be making a lot of jam or the birds will be really, really happy.
My garden has now grown enough that the people who are professionals in the gardening industry like to come see my garden. Some are growers from whom I have bought beautiful plants, others are looking for inspiration for gardens they are helping their customers design. It’s the being a whole inspiration thing that I am torn about.
I have always designed my gardens to suit me and be unlike any other that I see out there. So I really am torn as to how much of an inspiration I want my actual garden to be as far as the design goes. I don’t know that I want to see my garden multiplied and versions of it growing on different properties. After all it’s all my sweat equity and labor that has gone into my garden.
I’ve bought all my plants , I’ve planted them all myself, I’ve learned from trial and error what works and what doesn’t work. So while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, do I really want to see my garden style multiply?
Don’t misunderstand me, I love helping other gardeners. But I want to inspire people to seek their own creativity, not copy mine. Gardeners by nature are generous people. I am just torn on this issue because it’s my sweet equity, and it’s not like a landscape architect is saying to me that they love my garden and they will give me even credit recognition, they just want to see what I have done.
I have been through this before with other gardens and while I want to share sometimes it just bothers me that someone else will copy what I did and take the credit and not give credit where it’s due. It’s not even about money or a shared commission, it’s about saying hey I didn’t dream this up but someone I know did.
Anyway just some random thoughts on another rainy day.