I’ve gardened on the same piece of land for a quarter of a century.
It has been quite a journey, creating a garden. Magical, spiritual, and humbling.
Scattered with failures and successes.
When I began, I read every book and magazine I could get my hands on.
I was convinced there was a right way of ‘doing it’.
As I became more confident and developed skills, I realized this wasn’t true.
That following rules make for a boring garden.
And that breaking the rules is ‘a must’ …
If you want to create an authentic, soulful garden.
A unique one that reflects who you are.
Here are some things that I’ve learned over my 3 decades of gardening.
GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR IMAGINATION.
We all have one. It’s part of our souls. All you have to do is tap into it.
I love going for solitary nature walks. With no agenda. I automatically slip into a state of wordlessness and let the beauty sink into me.
There’s no one way to access your imagination. It might be listening to music, going for a run, or working on a research project.
THINK OF YOUR FRONT YARD AS AN OPPORTUNITY.
Most Americans think that front yards should look a certain way.
Lined up with a slew of evergreens, shrubs, and trees. How dull.
Years ago when I visited Anne Hathway’s house in Stratford-Upon-Avon, I was grabbed by its intensely planted front yard cottage garden. For the first time, it dawned on me that a suburban front yard could be transformed into a glorious garden.
One thing that stood out for me when visiting the garden was the beautiful bench situated in the front yard. It was a beautiful wooden bench with the hedge surrounding it. I spent days after looking for a similar looking one to go in my yard once I finished redecorating it, and came across one on the charming bench company website, however they don’t ship to my area, I was devastated, so the search continues.
My front yard went through several reincarnations before I gained the courage to dig up everything and design the garden of my dreams ~ a romantic, heirloom rose – perennial garden .
It has a gently winding pathway that leads to other gardens on either side of the house. It’s filled with native junipers, boxwoods, rows of yews and a series of rose arches.
People are blown away when they visit. For most, it’s a revelation.
EXPERIMENT WITH THE PLACEMENT OF PLANTS
Some of my greatest plant combinations happen when I feel inspired. Contrary to conventional gardening, a tall plant can make a great exclamation point placed towards the front of the border.
By doing this, the rhythm of the garden is broken up. It jolts the eye and keeps thing fresh. A little repositioning of plants goes a long way.
THINK OF LIMITATIONS AS A POSITIVE.
This is a tough lesson to learn but a ‘must’ for creative and joyful gardening.
Most of us have been raised with a passive attitude of ‘wishfulness’. “If only I had” or “When I become”.
Embrace the property where you live.
Don’t wait until you purchase a perfect piece of land. Create beauty now.
For years I gardened on a difficult property….steeply sloping and diamond shaped. I spent a couple of years living in the zone of ‘when I have my perfect piece of land.’ Not a good place to be.
It was only when I accepted its limitations that I was able to focus, dig in, and do some serious work. I begin to see the land with new eyes.
Guess what? I ended up designing and planting an exuberant, feisty, and tightly packed garden. Practically everyone who visits (including large garden tours) are inspired. They spend a lot of time questioning me, walking around, gazing, and taking pictures.
So much for convention.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS ~
Observe the land.
Listen to the sounds of nature.
Be flexible. Live with ambivalence.
Persist. Work hard.
When you’re stuck, walk away. Do something else.
Resist the urge to design a traditional garden.
Surrender. Get out of the way.
Invite your creativity to whoosh in and take center stage.
A jewel hidden under all of the layers of convention ~
***This article was originally written for The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Magazine. Since then, I’ve left that garden and am in the process of creating a new one ~
If you want to learn more about using the creative process in the garden as a conduit for living a more creative life, check out my book: Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. Share an experience where you’ve broken the rules ~ have had a blast and ended up with great results.