The Border Design

The first design project for my Landscape Design class at UC involves a 25’ x140’ border, foundation planting and patio area. Some of the students in my class only have to identify their plant selection in very basic terms such as evergreen, herbaceous and size. They are not horticulture majors so the instructor is giving them a bit of leeway. I was challenged to focus on the design of the garden as well as specific plant selections.

I am proud of my drawing. I wish I had better pencils so I could do some plants and groupings in different shades; all the black lines are a bit harsh for my liking. Considering this is my fourth design, ever, for such a class, it looks pretty good!

I am a firm believer in creating formal garden plans for real and imagined gardens. Designing a landscape is a study in flow, scale, perspective, site conditions and long term planning (how will the garden evolve, grow over time?).

It is also a wonderful way to delve into plant research. If you are specific about the plant selections in your design, you will inevitably spend more time with your nose in Dirr and Still reference books, garden design books and plant catalogues than you will spend drawing.

Next time weather keeps you housebound, challenge yourself to design a garden that is far removed from what you are accustomed to. Challenge yourself to design a shade garden if you are a veggie grower, a cottage garden if you prefer order and structure or a wetland garden if prairie gardening is your norm.

This is my last design class. The university does not offer a landscape design degree which is unfortunate. I would like to learn more about garden design under the instruction of a professional.


The Ever Expanding Garden Library

We recently revamped the entrance room to the
condo and now we have a library. Happy day!
As I was going through the books, deciding what goes where, I came across so many great titles that I wanted to share with you. Sometimes, I will share what I am reading as part of a design project or research. Or it may be a book that fits my mood, caught my attention or I think is a book of value for any gardener or garden historian.

I hope I share a few titles that are new to you or perhaps deserve a second look. Can we ever have too many garden books? I think not!

The first book I want to add to the Garden Library is a book I mentioned in a previous blog I created, The Historic Midwest Garden. I had three blogs, one too many. So, this season, I will include trips to historic gardens, notes on historic garden design, designers and plants.   I digress.      Introducing
Restoring American Gardens – An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants 1640-1940. Denise Wiles Adams

Contents include:
Historic American Garden Design
Reading the Historic Landscape
Gardens and Architecture: Design Styles for Historic American Building Types
Gardens and Geography: Ornamental Garden Traditions from Maine to Oregon
Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants including heirloom trees, ornamental shrubs, vines, herbaceous plants and rose to name a few.


Chalk it up to a Moment of Weakness

I am sure there are orchid aficionados shaking their heads and wondering what I was thinking buying an orchid at the grocery store. Here’s what happened.     I have been writing about greenhouses and how nice it would be to have such a wonderful place as an escape from the cold winter for my Landless Gardener post on Horticulture magazine’s web site. Then, I was reviewing garden blogs for my new, totally fun, role as Garden Blog editor for the aforementioned magazine and I kept finding posts about greenhouses. The pictures in the blogs were so alluring.

In my reality I sat in a cubicle all day, not even close to a window. The highway was slow for no reason and I had to make a stop for coffee before I could head home.

I was ripe for picking when I walked into Fresh Market. There they were- orchids and flowering bulbs next to the coffee display. It was a beautiful sight. If I couldn’t have a greenhouse, my own yard or an office with a window, I could have an orchid.

I would love to know what type of orchid this is. It is identified as a Fresh Market orchid on it tag.


You don’t have to garden to live the Garden Life

Living the Garden Life is a state of mind, a way of being. Even if you never sink a trowel in the earth or get your hands dirty you can live the Garden Life.

To understand this you must first see how gardens and flowers are woven into the tapestry of our lives. Gardens influence our home décor from the fabrics on our sofas to the books gracing our coffee tables. Lunch is more enjoyable in a park or green space and hotels with lush plantings and fresh cut flowers make us feel at home and at ease.

Children give their moms handfuls of cheerful dandelions as pretty gifts and young boys present their dates with flowers before the prom. Suitors court ladies with roses to spark romance and a bride’s greatest accessory is her flower bouquet.

In times of war, we grew victory gardens to support our troops. Flowers welcome us when we are born and mark the end of our lives in funerals and atop graves.

To live the Garden Life is simply to live with purpose- to add thoughtfulness to what we often do simply out of habit. Living the Garden Life is learning the names of the flowers we bring into the house. Living the Garden Life is taking a minute to look closely at the plants within a garden and seeing how they work together to create a garden. To live the Garden Life is to learn why we give the flowers that we do, such as red roses for love and lilies for Easter. It is adding a few simple cut flowers to the breakfast or bedside table. It’s taking a trip to a greenhouse or conservatory in the winter to enjoy lush, green foliage.

The more I ponder this, living the Garden Life, it seems like a nice way to add a bit of beauty and something special to our days.


Spring will be here soon enough.

I hear a lot of people lamenting that it’s winter and wishing for spring. I can understand why. In Cincinnati the winters can be cold, icy and gray. We do not have enough snow to engage in winter sports. Instead, there is just enough to make walking and running in town treacherous. And our lack of regular snowfall leaves our roads and snow piles looking dingy. But still, I am not one to rush spring.

Winter is my time to read, relax, visit garden conservatories and enjoy the winter garden. It is my time to hike in places like Red River Gorge without suffering heat exhaustion. I have time to spread out maps and garden books and plan the coming year’s garden treks. I am also taking a few university Horticulture classes. I am sure my mind would not be on my studies if it was 70 and sunny out.

When spring does arrive it comes soft and warm. It lulls us into thoughts of trips to the nursery to converse with fellow gardeners while selecting plants. Truth be told, spring is a façade. In reality, spring is whispering to us, get ready, get set, GO! Once the ground thaws the gardens will beckon and demand our time, energy and sweat.

Do not get me wrong, I love gardening and being worn out after a day’s work, feeling muscles I have not used all winter throb and knowing there is always something that needs to be done. I do not think of it as work, but pure joy!

But for now, I want to be a tad selfish. I want to finish my certificates from the university, I want to read garden books, draw garden plans and just daydream about gardens to come.


Ideas for the New Year

I wasn’t planning on posting about New Year’s resolutions, but after seeing others committing themselves to self and garden improvement I thought, Who am I to shrug this responsibility?

Set on making a few improvements plans for the year, I headed to one of my favorite places for inspiration, Ault Park. And for insurance, I grabbed a very inspiring chocolate chip cookie from Karl’s deli, yummy, and a Vitamin Water (you know, to cancel out the cookie’s calories).

After meandering around the park, with a slight sugar kick and an open mind, I settled myself on a bench with a view of the central lawn and Pavilion and waited for inspiration from the park and its gardens. It wasn’t long before ideas came to mind.
  • When I need to think, I will take the time to make my way back to the same bench. It is a wonderful thinking spot.
  • Design as if one day I will create a garden as grand as Ault Park. Shoot for the stars.
  • Design with thoughtfulness and attention to detail- much needed when working on tiny gardens.
  • Visit one new garden each month and share my travels via The Garden Life.
  • Read about a garden style, landscaper or garden designer I am not familiar with each month. AKA a new excuse to buy more garden books.
  • Design and install a garden unlike any I have done before. In other words, get out of my comfort zone and try something new!
  • Never forget that gardening is about creating, getting muddy and having fun.
  • Always remember- I may not be a gardener or garden writer by trade, but I am one at heart.