Gardening with a Spoon

For years my mom had soil envy.

Mike look at this! Do you see this? Mom would ask my father with disbelief as loose soil from my gardens spilled from her hands. You could garden with a spoon here!
Truth be told, you almost could. My first gardens were blessed with sandy soil. I was new to gardening so I did not fully appreciate, at first, the luxury I had of sandy soil. Couple that with a limitless supply of free, black soil and you had a gardener’s dream.

After a few years of gardening and acquiring quality tools, it was not unrealistic to design and install a sizable garden over a weekend. The sod came up with ease. And the yard waste center, which provided free, black soil every Wednesday and Saturday, was minutes from my house. A large trailer made quick work of countless yards of soil (easily into the hundreds) at no cost.

I had rich soil that drained with ease. I had free mulch from the same yard waste center as well as neighbors who were more than willing to give me pine straw if I helped them rake their yards. Nothing is nicer on bare feet than a garden path made of white pine needles.

It was a gardener’s dream. I spent most of my time planning, designing, shopping and installing plants and very little time prepping soil. I will spare you how ridiculously little time it would take me to dig a pond; in part because now I know just why my mom was jealous of my soil.

My first garden in Cincy was a rude wake up call. Welcome to the land of clay! Ah, but where there are gardening challenges one finds gardening rewards!



I was born and raised in Cincinnati. I lived in northern Wisconsin for a spell, where I caught the garden bug. Now I live, once again, in Cincinnati. Like many of you interested in gardening, I was like a kid in a candy store the first two years, and it showed in my gardens. Well thought out they were not. Instead, they were a disjointed, crazy hodgepodge of every plant I could find.

Thankfully, I began reading about gardens and garden design. I took what I was learning to create more thoughtful landscapes. I built stone walls and paths, constructed many ponds, incorporated native plants, planted for winter interest (much needed in northern Wis.) and grew plants from seeds in the basement. I have gardened as much as a half acre to a small patio garden in my Hyde Park condo.

I am working on a few gardens in Ault Park, researching two garden book ideas, studying garden design and history as much as I can and exploring gardens large and small. I also hike quite a bit with my friends, do a bit of traveling, love to cook and enjoy time with my family. Not a bad way to spend one’s time, yes?

I hope you enjoy this site and check back often. I have a lot of ideas to share including: Notes on Gardens Past, Garden Trekking, Plants I Dig, Notes from Ault Park, What I am Reading and The Patio Garden.

I have very few pictures from my gardens in Wis. Here is part of the front yard; a quiet space to read and enjoy my morning coffee. Garden in its second summer.

My new gardens are in Ault Park. This is such a special treat to work in this beautiful park! Park sign in an area designed by park gardener.


Putting Down Roots … Again

There is a less than inspiring view outside my window; gray, wet and foggy. No snow on the ground to remind me it is too early to plant, just the date on my calendar. In some ways it was easier to garden in northern Wisconsin than it is in Cincinnati.

In the winter, I would mark new garden boundaries in the snow, and then evaluate the new garden from the road (always keep the neighbors’ view in mind!) the second floor windows or the raised deck. Then, if the shape or size was not to my liking, I could smooth away the marks on the snow with a rake and start again. Once I had the new bed marked I would record the dimensions of the new garden and then retreat to a quiet spot in the house with my garden books and magazines, a cup of coffee and begin sketching out a few plans to scale.

The intent, of course, was to have a well thought out garden with year-round visual interest and continuous bloom. I also had this insane idea that if I had a plan in hand when I went to the nurseries, I would only buy what I needed. Of course I was fooling myself! After waiting months and months to garden, showing restraint at the nursery would have been a miracle.

I still make plans, for gardens and pots. And of course I am seduced by the plants when I arrive at the nurseries and nearly forsake my beautiful plans. And for this I am very, very happy.

The day I arrive at a quality nursery and fail to find plants that grab my interest, spark my imagination or simply make me feel like I have to have them (even if I have no idea where I can fit them into the garden) will be the day I hang up the trowel. What is the point of gardening if we are not inspired by the beauty and diversity of plants and moved to find a way to add one more to our collection?