Author Archives: Sue Goetz

Bad Tempered Gardener?

Travelogue Wales: South of Abergavenny, just over an hour drive past Raglan Castle  was a visit to a private garden. We walked down a small gravel lane off the main highway to a gate almost hidden under a tree. A hand-written sign led into the garden of Anne Wareham author of the book, The Bad-Tempered Gardener.  Prior to our visit, I did wonder what a bad-tempered gardener’s place would look like (I had not heard of the book.)  I don’t remember being bad-tempered in any garden, even when stuff dies, explodes (yep, a hose), overtakes (horsetail, ugh!), and just flat-out defeats me after a day spent in it.
Veddw House Garden

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The artistry of hedging at Veddw

We were greeted near the small conservatory by Anne’s husband,  Charles Hawes, a talented, well-known photographer. He mentioned she wasn’t home (I won’t spend too much space here telling who I later saw sneaking out the back door, while I was alone photographing one of the back gardens.)

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A peek inside the Conservatory

Charles gave us a warm welcome and spoke about the garden before he let us explore on our own. His described it as “a garden with edges being rough and ready”, which is a good visual for the way the lush planting borders threaten to spill over and have the run of the place. I did like his description  of simply letting the plants “have it out”. As I looked around, it made me think how I’d love to pursue that garden method.

“I have seen gardens gardened within an inch of their lives. I have seen gardens so “tidy” it makes your soul cringe. The kind of garden where the lawns are “edged” with a special tool, designed to keep the grass and the plants forever apart and weeded to death. Such gardens prickle with discomfort and control.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener
Yes, the plants were let to go wild, reseed, spread and fill every inch of soil, but the intricate maze of hedges somehow made it feel less rough. It was more like walking through rooms of an art gallery with works from an abstract artist. The  hedges behaving like picture frames all around to bring it together.

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Hosta en masse

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“Florist Cardy” (Cynara cardunculus)  with a side of Heuchera

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“I have met gardeners who make the sign of the cross at the sight of Alchemilla. This is because it seeds itself so generously. Well. be grateful that there is such a beautiful essential plant that does that for us and then find a good use for it.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

After our visit to the garden, I had a lucky find-out of thousands of  used books crammed on a shelf in a little book shop at  Hay-On-Wye (a village famous for books. The streets are lined with dozens of used and antiquarian bookshops.)  IMG_8657Here area  few snippets from the book:

What do you think? Bad tempered?
“Gardening is boring. It is repetitious, repetitive and mind-blowingly boring, just like housework. All of it-sowing seeds, mowing, cutting hedges, potting up, propagating is boring and all if it requires doing over and over again. If there are enjoyable jobs they’re mostly enjoyable for the result, not the process.”   Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

Or simply telling it like it is

“The very best trick is to try things and see. Experiment; take risks, particularly if they involve less work. This way innovation rises and innovation is badly needed in the gardening world. If a job seems exasperating, expensive or boring, stop and think whether there might be an easier way. Plants want to grow; they are on your side as long as you are reasonably sensible. If they don’t like what you offer, offer them something else quickly and see if it suits better.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

 

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veddw wood edging

Next Travelogue: Going Herbal at the Physic Garden

 

 


Travelogue: In Ruins

How can one go to Wales and not see (or stay) in a castle?

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Peacocks roamed the grounds lending a romantic yet noisy atmosphere.

Our first stay was at Ruthin Castle as we made our way to the upper coast of Wales.  A hotel and spa surrounded by the shadowy remnants of a fortress dating back to the 1200’s.

Ruthin Castle and Hotel

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Scenes from Ruthin Castle

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A medieval themed wedding was taking place one of the nights we stayed at Ruthin. When I was out taking photos,  I spied a little boy dressed in a knight costume having a sword fight with an imaginary foe. He was happy to pose for me showing his knightly fierceness.

Raglan Castle
If these wall could talk, they would reveal much. A walk through the grounds of Raglan conjures the visuals you see in the movies- knights in armor and raucous candlelit meals spread out on long wooden tables. In the ruins there are just enough outlines of  windows, walls and rooms of this castle that it lets your imagination run. You can almost see heavy tapestries and ornate fixtures dripping with the wax of lit candles hanging on the walls.
Touching the stone was like a vibration of its past. It is fascinating to see ancient stone that has stood for generations, solid, yet crumbling down.
The misty rain on the day of our visit, helped to create the perfect setting to walk and be drawn away into history.  Just imagine how many generations passed through the stately entry.

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Raglan Castle

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The ruins of Raglan Castle

Powis Castle

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A panoramic view from the great lawn at Powis Castle in Wales

Powis is a fortress and country manor that remains one of the few castles in Wales kept carefully preserved throughout its 700 year history. At first glimpse the gardens around the castle grounds seem nondescript, but as you weave your way down along the elegant baroque-style balustrades and terraces, the gardens become more magnificent. Mixed plantings, massive billowing yew hedges and lush shrub borders are the immense framework  that beautifully overwhelm the huge castle grounds. Every terrace, as you work your way down, shows different design influences. They weave to Italianate style, making way to the original orangery and then stepping down to the classic Edwardian herbaceous borders. Powis castle collage.jpg

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The view from the terraces to the formal garden and croquet lawn. 

 

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The veg and fruit gardens have been renovated to be more formal and decorative than productive.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’
This silvery leaved perennial was introduced by the head gardener of  Powis Castle in in the 1970’s. In 1993 the plant received the Royal Horticulture Society’s Award of Garden Merit. Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ is believed to be a hybrid between the Artemisia arborescens (large wormwood) and Artemisia absinthium (absinthe wormwood). The Genus is named for Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon. Hint, hint…plant this in a moon garden to illuminate the garden by the light of a full moon. IMG_1061 artemesia.jpg

Next Travelogue: The Bad-Tempered Gardener


Travelogue : Lost and Found

 Hell eee gan, not misspelled, but more an attempt to phonetically write how our charming garden docent Graham told us it was pronounced. The emphasis, to correctly say it, is on the middle syllable. I shall always remember him politely chiding us, but I will probably forever say it wrong.

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A field of Flanders poppies (Papaver rhoeas)  on the West Lawn framing a breathtaking view  to the Cornish countryside in the distance.

Welcome to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. It is another garden in restoration that makes you wonder;  how could an estate of that magnitude disappear into rubble? Money, time, loss of family traditions, a world war and a hurricane-in this case,  it was all of the above.

Then a machete wielding man started hacking away at the tangled mess. His brain started thinking restoration. So began the adventure of Sir Tim Smit. Reading stories you will find most thinking him part visionary, part insane, and actually part rock and roll.  He is as much a marketer and PR master as a passionate garden creator:  “If you truly believe in something and you can get three others to believe in it too, it will happen. If you love something, provided you’re not a freak, they’ll be millions of others that love it too. Then, the only remaining issue is a marketing one”. He has added billions to the Cornwall tourist economy by creating two gardens that visitors flock to by the thousands. Heligan was one of the first projects that brought him into the gardening limelight. Eden was the other.

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Glimpses of old stone throughout the gardens reveal its past


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The true gardens of Heligan were the productive ones. The Kitchen Garden, The Melon Yard and the Flower Garden.


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A private retreat in the Italian garden built in 1906


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An iconic shot of  one of the features of Heligan. The Mud Maiden along the path of the Woodland walk


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A turn towards New Zealand (the portion of the garden, not the country!)

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Next travelogue:
If these walls could talk: Castles in ruins and beloved restoration


Travelogue: Should I know Doc Martin?

I was told  I should watch Doc Martin before I traveled to Cornwall. I don’t typically watch much TV (except for my Downton Abbey fix), so it didn’t happen.

IMG_3100  Ok fine…what is all the fuss connecting this TV show with this seaside village?  I logged into Netflix  and ummm; is this what they call binge watching?  I am hooked and I love seeing all the places I walked during our visit to Port Isaac aka Portwenn.  For now, I am trying to stay away from the spoilers because season 7 is on. I am still in the episodes  where Doc and Louisa barely know each other in season 1.
Along the Rugged Cornish coastlineIMG_2953
What a charming village tucked in the side of the Cornish coast. All the  buildings stacked into the hillside to face the deep blue sea. IMG_3058

IMG_2972The main part of town is hidden until you round the corner down the walking path. A respite from garden touring, it was a beautiful spot to soak up the sun, and grab a Cornish pastie from the cute little bakery (which I suspect will show up in a future episode of the TV show). We behaved very much like American tourists, almost getting plowed by cars zipping through the narrow streets as we breezed in and out of little shops that I now see on the TV show. Every turn was a photo opportunity. Now I wish I had watched a few episodes and met the grumpy ol’ Doc so I could be like others and have my picture taken knocking on the door of “his” house.

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Next travelogue: A visit to the mud maiden


Travelogue: Visiting Eden

Somewhere around the year 2000, I read about a project in England that was a bit unusual. Was it a garden or was it a sci-fi movie set? This was not one of those classic English gardens of long historic reverence.  This was a dream of Tim Smit  who spearheaded the restoration of Heligan (upcoming post of a visit with the mud maiden, stay tuned). The Eden Project was a crazy concept to create a series of Biomes banked in the crevice of a giant china clay pit that scarred the beautiful Cornish countryside. His vision was to have massive greenhouses that allow people to see “…a living laboratory showing plants we depend on, seeing them as they grow in the wild together, a living demonstration…” I followed the stories of it’s building progress and read the controversy and challenges it has gone through. Satellite photos on the internet make it look like big pieces of bubble wrap tucked in the earth. It has always made me curious.
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This was a treat to walk out of the visitor’s center and down into the large pit and say, I can’t believe I am seeing this for real . Yep, I am pretty simple to please! Give me a garden to visit and you’d think you’d given me a million bucks.

IMG_2496The best part of the Eden Project beyond those amazing Biomes is the education and sustainability mission. All the water used to keep the huge rainforest dome bathing in humidity and to flush the toilets is collected rainwater. Energy is generated from the huge wind turbines around Cornwall. Kids and families, were everywhere, walking through this learning lab of plants both inside and out of the domes. I want an Eden here to take my grand-babies to and share in the magic of growing plants and learning about flora from all over the world.
There is much more to say about this unique project and this post could get long, but probably best to let you catch these links later and fill this post with my photos.

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Gardens outside the Biomes–reclaiming this old china clay pit into a lush  garden

 

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Learning about Pollinators

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Inside the Rainforest Biome

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The veg garden surrounding the outdoor dining area

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Inside the Mediterranean Biome

Next Travelogue: Should I know who Doc Martin is?


Travelogue: Check mark off the bucket list: Aberglasney

What is a bucket list? A list of things, whether written out or virtual, of places to go or things to do before you die. Mine is also known as the “someday” list and includes  gardens I’d like to visit. I could walk through gardens all day, every day, but sometimes one I have read about captures my imagination. I think about what it would be like to walk in and get sensory overload just by being there. Touch, smell, feel-those things photos or the internet can never do.
Aberglasney in Wales was added to my bucket list in 2007. I attended a lecture in Seattle given by the head gardener, Graham Rankin. It was a story of a garden lost in time (a book and BBC series) and its restoration. Just the idea of how a garden and home of that magnitude dating back 500 years, could simply disappear into rubble, was fascinating. Looking at the photos, I envisioned myself walking along the upper course of the  Elizabethan cloister garden. Back then, I never thought I would get to Wales, so visiting this garden was on my list, but really almost forgotten. Fast-forward to 2015 and the planning stages of traveling with a group to the UK. I notice we will be staying in Abergavenny. My mind began to wonder, is it possible that Abergavenny is near the Aberglasney on my bucket list?  Google maps said it was just over an hour drive away. It wasn’t on our itinerary, but I couldn’t get THAT close and not go! Uber, cab, bike, hitchhike, walk…I had to figure it out. Marianne, our tour planner,  did some searching to add it to our itinerary and found out they were closed on our one free day in the area. NO! But, yes, with Marianne’s keen negotiation, Aberglasney was added for a visit on the longest day of the year with dinner included.
Misty eyed
It was late afternoon in the lovely country side of Wales. As we drove up the coach parking, I felt lost. Was this the place I had seen in photos? It just didn’t look right. We started in the restored main entry of the house, and then walked through a door at the back of the room. It opened to the Ninfarium and that was the moment I recognized it from the photos that Graham Rankin had shown; I almost started to cry. Yep, that’s me (what a nerd), I had a moment of overwhelming gratefulness that I could travel and walk through this place that I had only seen in photos.

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The Ninfarium,  the central ruins of the house covered with glass to create an atrium.

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The Cloister Garden

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All the lovely angles of ancient stone in the Cloister Garden

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A look back at the house from the Upper Walled Garden

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A walk through the Yew tunnel planted in the 18th century.

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The Kitchen Garden

It was magical for us to spend the summer solstice walking the gardens with head gardener Joseph Atkin. Dinner was cooked from food grown in the lower walled kitchen garden and served on the terrace overlooking the pool garden as the sun was setting. The perfect way to check
this one off the bucket list. And yes,  I finally got to take the walk I had only imagined, on the upper part of the cloister walls, what a view!  If your journey ever takes you into the heart of Wales, you must go visit this place.

 

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The Upper walled garden designed by Penelope Hobhouse

gardens
Gardens by a few degrees of separation: I visited a garden in LaMalbaie, Quebec, Canada, Les Jardins de Quatre-Vent, (checked off my bucket list in 2013) that has ties to Aberglasney. Frank Cabot and family, owners of Les Quatre Vent, gave money to help with the restoration of Aberglasney. Add the gardens of Les Quatre Vent to your bucket list too!

Next Travelogue: Visiting Eden


Travelogue: June in the UK

Many have asked how my trip was and sometimes I feel speechless because I can’t put it into quick, casual conversation. And if you know me, you know I love talking about gardens.  It was many words from travel over 1700 miles on a coach zigzagging across the countryside of Wales, Cornwall and the Cotswolds.

Come along with me for an exploration of gardens of Wales and England, not in the chronological order of travel sense,  but the things that inspired me to write something along the way.

IMG_7924 heathrow lavenderMust start here…
Arrival Heathrow, UGH! You know that place where people who are grumpy from flying get pushed into the dungeon of this mega airport to get their passports checked. Emerging into daylight, the swath of English lavender blooming reminded me where I had just landed. The aromatic journey begins.

English Roses
In my gardening realm, all I hear is roses are too hard to take care of and disease”y”, aphid magnets. I tend to agree unless they are the tough ol’ Rugosas. I have moved into a new place recently and there are a few old rose bushes (not Rugosa!) that are fabulous and now after this trip I have fallen in love with growing roses again.

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casting shadows on the walls of Kiftsgate manor

The “Kiftsgate” rose at Kiftsgate Manor was not in bloom as we had hoped. It was just its rampant, huge tangle of crazy that I remember from a visit in 2005, but as we walked through gardens over the next few weeks, it seemed like every other rose in the UK was blooming! Everywhere, scrambling up walls and in the middle of mixed borders, mixing and mingling all over the place.
So this first travelogue are some photos of those heavenly fragrant English roses all over Wales and England. It does seem unfair to give you a look, but not a smell of how a rose in Britain on a warm day in June fills the air with perfume.

 

 

 

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A sweet tango with Thalictrum

 

 

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Roses and hedges, so very Sissinghurst

 

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Kiftsgate, Sissinghurst, Aberglasney, Veddw, Heligan, Eden

Join me on my blog for more photos and musings from my trip.

This trip was one of those I looked forward to and panicked as well, it is one of the busiest times of year for my landscape design business but a chance to visit and study gardens and the renovation of properties lost in the past to ruins. Two places were on my bucket list and we saw so many more that I never knew should have been on my list.

Next travelogue post: Check marks on my bucket list


Daddy Herbal Spa Moments

The Herb Lover's Garden

Treat dad with herbal skin care from the garden

The fragrances of basil, rosemary and thyme are rich with notes of camphor, pepper, pine and clove. There are no flowery, perfumed undertones. It’s all about a deep timbre of aroma – not delicate flowers. A woman’s sense of smell is more sensitive than a man’s; perhaps it is why men’s cosmetics have stronger, earthy aromas. Intense infusions of herbs are the perfect combination with nourishing oils and ingredients targeted to the masculine side of skin care.

Rosemary-Infused Massage Oilrosemary oil.lettered
Rosemary has the reputation to soothe joint pain.
Add that power to a natural oil to massage over knuckles, wrists, elbows and knees for a muscle and joint calming blend.

You need:
-1 quart-sized glass canning jar. (use a pint jar if you’d like to make a smaller batch) Clean & sterilize the jar.
-Fresh-picked, organically grown Rosemary
-Carrier Oil, such as…

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Word on the street

Garden trends, those lists that come out every year, do you read those? Everything has a trend…from what color to paint your house to how high a dress hemline should be. The latest on what we must have and how we can have it all. Sometimes it feels very driven by industry; like the paint supplier telling us what color is hot. But what about the end user?

In the ways of gardening, what is the word on the street, the latest buzz? I start with my design clients, what are they asking for, seeing and pinning on their Pinterest pages? What are we actually installing in landscapes? I also do a lot of seminars and workshops, and the request for topics from garden clubs and nurseries are also a big tell-tale of what people want to hear and learn more about.

Cutting gardens are back.
Thanks to the awesome slow flowers movement. We care about where our flcome into my garden.jpgowers are grown and that they are local. The flower in the vase looks less a mystery of its beauty when we see local flower farmers bringing it to market. In turn, it makes gardeners want to grow some too.

Chickens are getting easier.
I remember having chickens years ago before it was trendy, and it was a joy to have them, but it was also a lot of work. I look at all the resources available today, from the Taj Mahal of coops to chicken sitting services,  practically anybody with logical space to raise them can do it. Check out Fresh Eggs Daily for a bounty of information.

Bees matter.
As a matter of fact, we can live and die by how the population of bees is cared for. Check out this episode of Growing a Greener World on the importance of urban beekeeping. If you are not interested in beekeeping, you need to be interested in how chemicals affect bee populations and ways to help attract pollinators to the garden. Yes, really you must! Visit the Honey Bee Conservancy to learn more and get the facts.

Flavor is in.
Once you cook with fresh herbs from the garden, you will never look at a spice jar on the grocery store shelf again.   There simply is no comparison to the flavor of processed herbs or vegetables to those harvested from the garden. Fresh picked, canned and preserved. Download a podcast (or two or three) from Living Home Grown including this one on “Getting more Garden Flavor”. YUM!

Fragrance Is In.                                                                                                     Aromatherapy in the garden. Think fragrance beyond flowers. Get to know shrubs like witch hazel (Hamamelis), Daphne and sweet box (Sarcococca) . Plant trees that linger fragrance in season and blend natural perfume all over the garden, Magnolia, Chinese Fringe Tree (Chionanthus), Fragrant Snowbell (Styrax obassia) . For more scented plants, go to Great Plant Picks “Plants that make Scents.”

Selfish gardening is not a bad thing.
What can a garden give back to you?  Gardeners want plants that give back and are adding them to ornamental landscapes. Blueberries as a hedge like the variety ‘Sunshine Blue’, parsley as a flower border edging, strawberries as a groundcover. Designing gardens with plants that give interest to the garden but give something to harvest. Join me at the Northwest Flower and Garden show Thursday February 18th for my seminar “In Search of Useful Spaces” for more on how gardens give back.

Weeds and deer, any miracle solutions out there?
Yes, there are lots of ideas, just google it and you will be inundated. Start with knowledge. Know what type of weed you are dealing with (annual, perennial, rhizome or seed spreader) and take action. For most weeds, if you take away what makes them thrive or reproduce, they will stop doing those things! Deer and wildlife are creatures of habit, get to know those habits. What are they looking for, food, a place to bed down, safe passage? Don’t plant an edible garden in the middle of a popular deer trail. Makes sense right? There are many logical solutions like a deer fence and repellent sprays, but get to know your garden pests to know how to take charge of how they damage it.

There is never a request for more grass.
Most say they are sick of mowing, moss and chemical use on lawns and want to simply make it go away. It can happen, but before you get out a shovel or use a chemical (gasp) to kill it all off, start with a plan. If the grass is gone, what goes in its place and how will it be maintained. The answers are in the design.

Those gardens that were lush and magazine gorgeous ten years ago are now being renovated to low maintenance.
Renovating for low maintenance is a huge part of my work right now. We want all that lushness, but we don’t want the work. How to strike a balance? Choose plants wisely and consider what maintenance you hate. Pruning? Water use? Mowing? Weeding? All of the above? There is no such thing as a zero maintenance garden, but there are many things that can be done to strike a balance between the beauty and the work of a garden. Just for fun, dream of renovation in under an hour! Am I the only one who used to watch the TV show “Ground Force” on BBC?

Internet gardening is frustrating, aka plant searches suck.
Be wise about where you are getting information about your garden. Choose resources such as colleges and educational facilities that are motivated by the study and proper care, not by selling you a product. The Garden Professors, Mobot, Great Plant Picks, The Elisabeth Miller Library  are some to take a look at.

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There is high demand for natural looking pathways through the garden. I get many requests for material like gravel and wood chips instead of flagstone and paver block. Take away the sterile feel of walking
through the garden by changing the choice of the surface. Mmm, dreaming of decomposed granite? ? Me too!

We like to Pinterest, but…
Do we really want it all. We like the pallet garden idea-but we wouldn’t dare put it in our own gardens? The reality is a different thing, just take a look at Pinterest fail  for a dose of humor. But seriously, be logical and use a critical eye for ideas on Pinterest. Find plants to discover, garden decor, furnishings and such. I like to think that it is a great place for concepts, pictures, and ideas. Build a wish list and idea book for things you want to do in the garden.

Contained gardens go anywhere.
Pottery, plants that don’t overgrow their containment.  Small space edibles, aromatherapy and more. Container gardens are a hot commodity and for good reason. You can garden almost anywhere when you pot up plants. Create privacy on a balcony, have fresh herbs on the deck right next to the BBQ, stylize and add color to a boring spot in the garden.


Design Matters

design matters2I am often asked why someone would need a garden designer when they have a landscaper.
I see landscapers and garden designers as two different jobs. Not every person who mows lawns, prunes, etc. will know the best tree to give you something for every season and sites it to its best viewing and advantage to the overall look of the landscape. A designer will help you decide what goes where and what it will look like while a landscaper will bring it all to reality. Yes, sometimes they are the same person doing both, but it all starts with the designer.

Garden design thinks through more than just a place to put plants and a pathway. As a designer, I walk the lay of the land. I look at all the nuances around the landscape and see if they will be valuable to the appeal of the garden. Then I want to know how the garden will be used. I tell clients to imagine themselves having a meal outside or entertaining friends or feeding birds. I want to stir up thoughts of what the garden truly is to their lives. Is it the views from the kitchen window or a sitting area? Sometimes it is as simple as curb appeal and nothing more. Curb appeal makes someone feel welcome as they drive up. It is important that the landscape makes a connection from home to curb and compliments all the surroundings, so yes, even curb appeal deserves a designer’s eye.

The design also looks at what you don’t want to see.
For example, a common habit is to plant a shrub in front of a utility box to “hide it” or put in a random stand of bamboo to make the neighbor’s ugly garage disappear. But if that is all you do, then is simply draws more attention to the unsightly.
Design will address those things and build them into the overall landscape, so they are natural. You should hardly notice the shrub is hiding something, or the trellis makes something disappear from a sight-line. Many clients start with one thing on their mind- such as a client needing privacy or a way to hide the ugly fence. I will design that, but my job is to make it a part of the whole beautiful landscape, not just a plant thrown in because something was bugging you.

Design matters if you want longevity, beauty in all seasons and a garden that captures your lifestyle, even in the smallest spaces.

Garden Coaching Consultation and Design
Sue Goetz, CPH
Creative Gardener Tacoma, WA
www.thecreativegardener.com


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