Garden design

With gardening so much in vogue again, much of the nation has decided to seek  its fortune publishing books and articles on garden design, detailing every step with great precision and authority. They describe proper borders, paths, layouts, color schemes, and so on. Videos are produced, companies founded, fortunes made and lost.

Being in need of a few dollars, I offer my own thoughts on the subject: Gather the seeds and plants you like best and plant them. Do this outdoors.

I believe in economy of language.

Even the most ardent ethusiast is put off when a simple process is dissected too thoroughly and left to experts. (See entry on experts.)  It’s that way with cooking, making love, buying clothes, having babies, and it’s certainly true with gardening. Why we’re so intent on making rules and complicating matters, I don’t know, but the effect is to be  intimidated into total inaction – afraid we’ll forget a step, plant a seed too deep, and have to leave town. The only thing you truly need to design a garden is to start here and work that way, deciding what might look good along the way. Have the boldness to throw out rules, and here’s a few to start with:

Herbs belong in an herb garden. Why? Nobody knows. Herbs belong wherever you want them.

Vegetables belong in a vegetable garden behind the house.  Nonsense. Same with flower gardens. Same with perennial borders. Plants belong where you like them. We’ve grown parsley as a border, red cabbage as an ornamental next to orange marigolds, cosmos as a tall bedding plant, lettuce as a low one, and so on. We don’t know what we’re doing.

But when we began farming for profit, we decided the only way to compete with other farmstands and nurseries was to plant the most beautiful garden beds we could imagine, right by the road, with benches for sitting, inviting visitors in to walk, relax, talk, and enjoy the beauty. Maybe they’d buy something, we thought, and they did every time.

One day a lady who had just lost her husband of a good many good years came to the farm, figuring this was a good place to grieve. She sat out there a while, so I went to make sure she was alright, and she told me about her husband and how he loved flowers. I told her to pick a bouquet to take home, and she did.

Anyway, word got around and one day a reporter from the Boston Globe came by to check things out. The resulting article in the Boston Sunday Globe, stated that “A visit to Plum Hill Farm is like walking into a lush living painting.” And the people came, and it was dark when we finally had to close that day.

See what you can accomplish when you don’t know what you’re doing?

About lifegrower

Peter V. Fossel has been gardening since he was nine, and has been an organic farmer for the last 20 years. His most recent book, “Organic Farming, Everything You Need to know” was published by Voyageur Press, Minneapolis, 2007. He’s written numerous gardening articles for Organic Gardening, Horticulture, Country Journal, Out Here, and American Profile among others. He was Gardens Manager for The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson in Tennessee before returning to Cape Cod to start his newest organic venture, Swan River Farm in Dennisport, MA.
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1 Response to Garden design

  1. mainebird says:

    “Gather the seeds and plants you like best and plant them. Do this outdoors.”

    Love this! Is it ok if I copy it and put it up on the wall of my garden shed?

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