Sarah and Helen of Toronto Gardens have kindly bestowed upon me the honor of a "Seven Things About You" meme, and it feels so much like, "have another glass of wine, dear and tell us about yourself" that I accept!
In pondering the topic, my mind veered into the garden, as it often does. I saw that there have been seven particularly influential gardens in my life. Spanning nearly five decades, their stories make for a passable memoir of a California gardener. Thank you for inspiring
me to share them!
Our first garden was a simple suburban lot in the heart of what was rapidly becoming Silicon Valley, but at that time was more orchards than offices. My mother planted roses and annuals and old fashioned shrubs like pussy willow. My dad built us a clever play yard. There were trees to climb, just enough lawn, and a full complement of butterflies, bugs and birds, of which I was inordinately fond.
I have such vivid memories of that garden, much more so than the inside of the house. Looking through photos for the post I could almost smell that particular fragrance of snapdragons as you squeeze their sides to make a tiny roar; and almost taste that drop of nectar you can sip from a nasturtium.
During those years we played in the creek, planted vegetables and enjoyed the many fruit trees. But I have to say, my main horticultural interest then was houseplants, I loved them, my private oasis in my room. Back in the day, I was the QUEEN of macrame plant holders.
My true gardens would have to wait a bit longer.
My stay-home mom years coincided with a move to Aptos, along the coast south of Santa Cruz, where my first husband and I rented a home for eight years. My creative outlet during that time was building my first 'real' gardens.
It all started innocently enough, a row of petunias down the driveway, but with that first little taste I was hooked. By the second summer the tiny front yard was overflowing with perennials. Those were the years of gardening books, magazines and catalogs stacked by the bed, and a grubby baby monitor in the tool bucket.
With no more room in front, I set out to reclaim the tiny (~10' deep) back garden. Our house was cut into a steep, north-facing slope covered with live oaks, ivy, native hazelnut, elderberry, wild currant and blackberry, all intertwined with copius amounts of poison oak. Fellow blogger Ivette Soler (The Germinatrix) recently wrote about how the jungle advances like the ocean. This stuff advanced like a tsunami!
The garden I made, by adding a planter along the retaining wall, a deck outside our bedroom doors and a shade garden under an arbor, was actually a finalist in a contest (for small gardens under 200sf) held by The Victory Garden. It didn't win, but to have such an early effort recognized at all was very cool!
the landscape my second husband and I created, with the help of a landscape architect whose work we admired. The flat lot was transformed into something really quite unique and lovely.
These pictures were taken six years after planting; only the mugo pines by the walk and some star jasmine remain of the original. This west-facing ranch-style home, with its large windows used to be an exposed, hot fishbowl. What it became was a colorful dappled private woodland and meadow, with a house nestled in.
The bones of the garden were the large granite boulders used throughout, sometimes as structure, sometimes as accent. I love boulders in a garden, and use them often (I like structure you can count on, and you can count on rocks.) The cream-colored pot is actually a bubbling fountain, really nice to have near a front door.
We had the hand-carved front door made in Santa Fe; the chip-carved surface almost looks like hammered metal, and the stain went beautifully with the house color, the brick and the bluestone porch. Taking advantage of its willingness to roam, I liberated the star jasmine from the foundation bed and allowed it to ramble along the roofline, one of my favorite details.
We used 'pinched views' to gain privacy without blocking the house off completely, as a fence or hedge might do. The garden is actually quite open in the middle, once you walk up the path or over this hill between the shrub rose and large phormium. The focal point stone in the center was a particularly fine place to pose a large furry spider at Halloween!
Alas, this garden was not to stay mine; we sold the house not long after these photos were taken, and another family has made the garden their own. These may well be the last record of "how it was."
Which brings us almost up-to-date. When I moved into my present home in the summer of 2006 I was a little discouraged to find myself back to square one, but also excited about finally using my years of experience as a landscape designer to create a new garden for myself.
The back came first, as it had been reduced to dirt during a remodel. I've written about this particular corner before; it is my favorite place to be, under the Red Umbrella. It has taught me much about the healing power of peaceful surroundings, particularly gardens.
The back garden was designed and built rather quickly to take advantage of a rare alignment of resources; for the next one I would take my time.
This is my house as I first saw it. Small, sunny, perfect; I immediately knew it was home. However, it would be a couple of years before I could replace my aging lawn, and I semi-dutifully mowed and watered the tyrant until a sprinkler head broke last year. I saw that as a sign, and let the lawn die with no regrets.
This winter, with business much slower and my nest newly empty, the time and resources were there to begin in earnest. My dad did the beautiful woodwork; every bit as artful and sturdy as the play yard he built more than 40 years ago. Working with him was a precious opportunity, and I happily bequeathed him my power mower in gratitude for his help.
So the garden mandala I've been creating for three years is now complete; harmonious elements combined to surround, infuse and define my private world. It is not perfect by any means, but it certainly shows how far I've come since that first row of petunias.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Thanks for joining me on my long journey; I'm a bit exhausted! Now is the part where I sent you off on further adventures. Here are seven different directions you can go:
A Verdant Life John Black writes SO well, and has a knack for introducing provocative viewpoints with wit, insight, and the chops to back them up.
Blue Planet Garden Susan Morrison has already opted out of the 7-Things meme, but I want you to know about her blog anyway, her message is important and the way she relays it is smart, funny & charming.
GardenPunks Katie Hobson is an amazing photographer as well as a writer; when I saw the photos she took of my garden I looked at my trusty point-and-shoot and said "why can't YOU do that?"
Gossip in the Garden Rebecca Sweet serves up fresh and funny horticultural and design advice from her own beautiful gardens, which have twice been featured in Fine Gardening magazine!
Great Stems Meredith's blog is new to me, but it had me at cantaloupes and ladybugs; the work of a true gardener and talented photographer.
Miss Rumphius' Rules Susan Cohan has already been meme'd I know, but if anything deserves some extra recognition, it is her intelligent, informative blog. It is a standard to which I aspire.
Root Awakening Lynn Felici-Gallant's photos of her New Hampshire garden are exquisite, I have borrowed several (with permission!) for my screen saver, and enjoy them every day!
The Germinatrix Ivette Soler has also been meme'd already, (and her delightful response might be even longer than mine) but I HAD to include her because I adore her every post. When I'm inclined to curb my enthusiasms, her writing reminds me that it is OK to have passion for what I do, and to not be afraid to show it!