Following the Lines

I do not have a large garden to explore and tend to; just a few modest plots at the park. There are days when I find I have little to weed or deadhead. Soon the fall clean-up will begin and I will have plenty to do at the gardens. Until that day I have time to appreciate the subtleties of the gardens including how plants add movement and texture to the spaces. I like how focusing on one plant or flower changes the way I see the surrounding garden space.

The horizontal lines of the grasses and Gaura lindheimeri 'Whirling Butterflies' bring me down to the level of the plants and to seeing the garden framed by their beautifully arching lines.


Autumn is Creeping In

There were a few surprises at the park this morning. I knew it was chilly, but walkers bundled up in coats and scarves had me wondering if I was a tad underdressed for my morning jaunt around the grounds. There was a nice chill in the air; the kind that has me breathing deep and slow to savor all the subtle hints if autumn. My breath hung in the airy, all-be-it briefly, as I gazed upon the morning's light warming the gardens. It was chilly, but not bundle-up-in-coats chilly.

My toes became damp as I crossed a lawn that was thick with dew. Droplets of moisture hung on the plants, but frost was not to be found; which I was happy for. Autumn is a wonderful season and winter can patiently wait a few months to claim the gardens.

Iris are in bloom in the rock garden as well as a fellow gardener's plot. Am I the last gardener to know about fall blooming iris? To me, iris are spring, early flushes of color and delicacy in what was for many months a frozen, harsh garden. The iris in the fall garden takes me back a bit.


The Sun Garden; Then and Now

The summer has been kind to my new garden. Plenty of sun, rich soil, ample organic fertilizer and plenty of watering has led to an abundance of growth and blooms. I knew when I adopted this plot that I wanted to break away from my usual tidy, must-be-in-order garden look and create something that was wild, colorful and impossibly thick with plants. I like things in order and this was my chance chance to try a new garden style. It is safe to say, mission accomplished!

Several times a week I venture to the gardens to weed, take photos and check on the other garden plots. It is not unusual for me to collect a least two large yard waste bags (2x3 feet) of cuttings and excessive growth (and a few weeds) from this garden alone. I whack away at the Lantana, Russian sage, zinnias, butterfly bushes and other plants. The garden is lush, there is no doubt about that!

My new garden, very early in the season. Do I see soil? Hard to see any soil these days.
Mulched and filling in nicely. Still early in the season- iris still blooming.

Now we have crazy wild!!

I love the way the garden spills out on the walk softening the line between garden and hard surface. And the height is great; seeing flowers closely without having to stoop so far down is a nice feature. I do have some weak spots, and more solid height in the back of the garden is in order. Perhaps a flowering/berry shrub is in order. The butterfly bushes are a hit with the moths and butterflies, but they lack the solid form the garden craves.  The next few months will be spent studying the final product, taking notes and hatching plans for an even better garden next year. 


Toad Lilies

My Sister's Garden

It is official; three more family members have been bitten by the garden bug. My sister, Elizabeth, who lives in a lovely Tudor-style house, dabbled in gardening here and there last year, but with two little ones in tow—Jack, 3, and Molly, 1, at the time, getting a lot accomplished in the yard was quite the chore. This summer the kids are at the perfect age to get out and get their hands dirty.

They are the smartest kids ever (not that I am biased!), and when they see any of us doing or talking about something with excitement and passion, they want to know all about it and partake in the fun. As you can imagine, when their mom started ripping out ivy, moving plants and adding graceful border gardens to the yard, there was no stopping these little gardeners; they had to be a part of the yard makeover.

Elizabeth’s neighborhood recently held a community-wide garden competition, and from what I can tell, this was hard core. Gardens were judged on use of hard- and soft-scapes; varied heights of plants; structure and texture of plants; design layout of the garden; and overall color palette (not just a lot of colors!). Just before the judging I stopped over to see the garden, and I was amazed at what she had created in such short order. What was once an uninspiring yard with raggedy shrubs and a worn-out lawn was lush, cool and inviting. Her garden reminded me of the gardens of Savannah and Charleston. Here was the perfect example of how you can positively impact the senses and create a serene environment within a small space.

An artist by training, Elizabeth used her artist’s sensibility to create flow within an angular space. Her garden has texture, movement and a calmness created by a minimalistic color palette. The front porch is now a perfect place to sip coffee and watch the kids play. I knew she had a winning garden design, but would the judges acknowledge her talent or award the prizes to the more established gardeners in the neighborhood? Would they see the tiny, muddy hand prints on the porch posts as a negative or a sign that this was a family-made garden? And that is the best part about this garden— it was made by mom with a lot of “help” from Jack and Molly.

Gardening has to be one of the best ways to get kids outside. Jack and Molly are learning a lot about plants, bugs and taking care of a garden, and to them it is all fun. They have pride in their new yard and love telling us that they helped! The best way to learn is hands-on fun, and gardening is about as hands-on as you can get. And as for the judges, they were rather impressed and awarded Elizabeth’s garden first place! Just imagine what she can do her second summer of gardening!

Photos courtesy of Vicki Ross.