Inspiring a Garden

Gardening shares similarities with other creative projects (including the old clothes). Knowledge helps, and experience, but inspiration, in the sense of energy and enthusiasm, carries the day.

Gardening inspiration comes easily from books. (So many books that I’ve added a Gardening Bibliography page to the right.) I have a garden, care about gardens, because of books. Gardening is local, but inspiration is global – and it often comes from England.

While how-to teachers held my hand every step of the way in building the garden here (more about that soon), I wouldn’t have even begun without the books that excite me like those of Mary Keen and Mirabel Osler, the kind that encourage me to try.

In spite of their expertise, Keen a garden designer and Osler a garden writer, welcomed me as a beginner. Echoing the 18th Century poet and gardener Alexander Pope, Keen counsels to “Consult the genius of the place.” Osler, in her book “A Gentle Plea for Chaos” says, “Relax.”

Keen’s book “Creating a Garden” enchanted me, but she won my heart when I heard her speak at the Seattle flower show six years ago. Early in her lecture (full of wisdom and useful information) smiling, but speaking firmly in her proper accent, she invited anyone who wanted to use poison and not be “green” to leave the lecture room. She also said her favorite garden was hers, and yours should be yours.

Another British garden designer said if you can declare “it’s a good garden for me” – then it is. People find garden happiness in many ways: food, beauty, nostalgia, pure plant passion, a desire to be part of the natural world, or, some of all of the above. Sometimes I think I know what people want from their gardens – like the bookbinders who are excellent farmers or my clever friend who lives in town and delights all passersby with an exuberant cottage garden.

I found where I described my garden to myself as a “crude approximation of a Washington garden,” and I would be more comfortable if you thought of it that way, too. The phrase occurs because I compare what’s here with what’s possible – which is nearly every plant under temperate world’s sun. Like England – the state’s a garden – with excellent gardeners.

But for me a good garden isn’t perfect (thankfully) and that’s probably where my fondness for Osler’s injunction lies, and now gardens don’t seem beautiful unless they are good to the earth. So that’s a focus here, along with creating a garden in keeping with the woods and enjoying the cycle of the year. I’d like beauty and solace and a place for critters – the wild ones and us.

Osler writes:

“This brings me to another observation which I think goes with my original longing for a little shambles here and there. For it seems that proper gardeners never sit in their gardens. Dedicated and single-minded, the garden draws them into its embrace where their passions are never assuaged unless they are on their knees. But for us, the unserious, the improper people, who plant and drift, who prune and amble, we fritter away little dollops of time in sitting about our gardens.”

“So me too” – as one of our kids used to say.

3 thoughts on “Inspiring a Garden

  1. Two authors I love too. I appreciate Osler’s ‘permission’ to just sit and enjoy, wish I didn’t think I NEED permission! Ahhhhh, spring in the NW! bliss

  2. Soooooooo me too! A friend’s hilltop garden in northern Calif. has what he calls “occasional seating” — turn a corner, and there’s a chair or bench, seemingly haphazardly placed, its very casualness an invitation. Lovely, lovely post, KG — good thing I bought more bookshelves for all these new garden books 🙂 xo JVP

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