What inspired you to write Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden?
Through my design work I realized the vital need for information on garden design that combines both the practical and the poetic. Oh Garden! began as a collection of notes, sketches, poems, and observations, then evolved into this book, reflecting both my passion to discover and share information about the cultivation of plants and the history of garden design.
Your book is divided into two parts, “Creating the Framework” and “Candidates for the Borders.” Can you explain what is meant by “Creating the Framework”?
Whether designing a small garden, a garden room or a series of rooms on a larger property, we begin with the fundamentals of adhering to the natural contours of the land, observing the path of the sun, planning the primary paths, and planning the larger plantings of trees and shrubs. By designing with a combination of familiar ornamental and less widely distributed native species of trees and shrubs we are creating a mixed arrangement of beauty. The framework is the living tapestry of foliage, flowers, fruit, and fauna. The book has a super structure of the two parts and is also organized to guide the reader through the seasons, from early spring flowering trees to coaxing winter blooms indoors.
And “Candidates for the Borders”?
While building the framework we are simultaneously considering the borders. As your garden begins to grow, glorious things happen, but only if you make a commitment to plant without the use of pesticides and herbicides. Planting for the pollinators creates a natural balance within the garden. A Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly suddenly appears and stays for several weeks and you ask yourself what has drawn this beautiful creature to your garden. Could it be the violets planted last year? And, why yes, it is a female, looking for violet leaves in which to lay her eggs. And why and what is the purpose of those gorgeous iridescent wing spots? Oh Garden! asks and attempts to provide answers.
In the early stages of planting our own garden I had some real disappointments—for example, with the lack of scent in cultivars that were purportedly fragrant. The chapter titled “The Fragrant Path” will save fellow gardeners from wasting their precious time and energy by providing an extensive list of highly scented cultivars and ideas of where to plant to maximize the fragrance. The list is organized to provide a sequential array of interwoven scents, from early spring through winter.
Chapters such as the ones on roses, lilacs and peonies were written to inform the reader about the plant’s culture, to aid in choosing varieties that are exceptionally fragrant and to give an accurate description of color. The smudges of color in the peony and lilac chapters are provided to show the contrast between hues. When we were first planting our garden I wanted richly fragrant peonies in shades of brilliant rose-red, vibrant pink and creamy white. My first go around was an utter failure. The plants were mismarked and almost completely lacking in fragrance. With a small garden one has to be discriminating, and if the plant doesn’t pass muster, out with it and in with the new. Armed with information, I hope to save my readers valuable time and money.
Many of the now common-to-every-garden plants originated from China and Japan. I find it very interesting to discover the layers of symbolism associated with flora represented in Asian art and design, and how we can think about the poetry of these same ornamental plants, as well as native species, in the context of our gardens.
Why did you include poems?
When our daughter Olivia was twelve and Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! was nothing more than a collection of notebooks and sketchbooks, she was helping transcribe it from longhand to our then-new computer. I actually paid her to do this. One afternoon she ran upstairs to her bedroom, announcing on the way, “Mom, you need a poem for your book.” Half an hour later she came running back down stairs and with her usual flourish, handed me the poem “My Mother’s Garden.” She had written it in that instant. Olivia planted the seed for the inclusion of more poems. I hope this little collection of poems encourages readers to seek more poems by these poets.
Why watercolors rather than photographs?
Watercolors perfectly express the ephemeral beauty of blossoms and butterflies. There is a technique in watercolor that I love to play with and that is to not use white paint. Applying layers of transparent washes and leaving areas of the paper unpainted, create the whites. You are always thinking about light (white highlighted areas) and shadows. I rarely mix paint and rely once again on using very thin layers of paint, of pure colors, to create secondary colors and shadows. Cerulean, vermilion, quinacridone magenta, cadmium yellow deep, cadmium yellow light, rose vive and cobalt violet were the colors that formed the palette for the majority of drawings for Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Although, it is really all about the drawing—the “lift of the line” as my dear friend Kate would say.
What projects are you currently working on?
Oh Garden! continues—from early on I perceived of it as more than one book. Writing about, painting and photographing flora and fauna are one of my greatest joys, and through my columns and notes I have collected more than enough information for my next book. When you plant with intention, magnificent things happen and the exploration continues.
Before the sequel to Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! is available, I am hoping to launch my illustrated book about butterflies out in the world. It’s a beautiful tale that describes a phenomenon that occurs here in our midst and was written and illustrated with people of all ages in mind. It is a sort of picture book for all, informative and lyrical.
For the month of September, my Monarch photos will be on display at the Matz Gallery located in the Sawyer Free Library in Gloucester. The photos and the explanatory text tell the story of the Monarch migration east of the Rocky Mountains and are based on a series of articles I wrote last summer.
I continue my rewarding work with design clients, creating inviting environments indoors and out.
Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden
Gardening/Art ~ 256 Pages, 90 Watercolor Illustrations. 7 X 10”
ISBN-13 978-1-56792-330-8 $35.00