Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Re-Thinking the Garden- YARDS: Turn any outdoor space into the garden of your dreams

An Open Letter to Billy Goodnick, Author of Yards: Turn any  outdoor space into the garden of your dreams (St. Lynne's Press)

In my study. Could it be the arrangement of  'Betty Boop' roses, Iris, Borage and Valerian  gathered from the garden are admiring Billy's new book?
Dear Billy- 

Congratulations on your influential new book-Yards: turn any outdoor space into the garden of your dreams. It's a difficult thing to construct a book which is useful and desirable across horticultural zones and economic boxes. You did it. With style and fun.

  Your talk at the last   Southern California Horticultural Society inspired me. First to look back at my journey as a gardener. Then, when you implored the audience  to finish the sentence in describing our relationship to our gardens " I like it because..."  the collective nudge of how to structure  renovations was palpable.

 This is where I started, in June of 1989.  

We bought this house. It was brown on brown with brown carpeting and beige walls. It came with a lawn and a view. Our sons were both in grade school. Our family motto back then- The season never ends, only the ball changes- the best asset was the distance from our "field" to the nearest  neighbor's windows. 

It was all I ever wanted in a garden. For about 30 days. 

As a learn-by-doing gardener, over the years my garden has featured lots of mistakes.  Many earned having my mugshot featured on your clever Crimes Against Horticulture: When  Bad Taste Meets Power Tools,   

Having fun at the Tucson Garden Writers Association  Symposium

Long-ago, I was the ax- murderess of an innocent maple. The following spring I read  the poor tree was probably just dormant. 

Not that nature punished me. Nooo, with the assistance of  American Express (who encourages plant malfeasance by throwing in replacement miles towards  future travel), where the maple had only been sleeping there is now firmly rooted  my first flowering tree: a Magnolia x soulangeana (saucer magnolia).

Can we blame the garden lust on  the plants?  The more mistakes I made, the more compost there was to nourish my next victims- er- specimens. 

Which brings me to this time and place. Where the sacrifice of many plants has created an environment of colorful sanctuary.   

I like my garden because the slant of the hillsides make for painterly plantings.

I like that you don't have to see the house to make it stand out from the rest on the block.

I like how flowering plants imbue our former " driving range" with an aura of Eden.

The openness of the garden's original state is more appropriate to a true wilderness setting. We like our privacy. I think of it as our original garden was nude- now it is dressed in layers of finery- with hints of what is special to tempt visual exploration beyond the fence-line. 

I adore the erasure of borders.  For some plants, fruit follows flowers, why shouldn't they live together? Segregation for segregation's sake ought to be considered a sin. In everything. 

From Hummingbirds to Hawks. My vision of Eden is full of birds.


I like that m y garden is an aviary without a net.

 Structure in the garden grounds the garden to its purposes. But the transcendent return of the Orioles in the spring lifts the most important component of American greatness- the imagination. 

The fuzzy orange bumble bee did not stick around long enough to have me find the camera, put on the lens before he buzzed off- but there are always honey bees about to be photographed-  just so I don't try to pet it (like Kenny did in preschool).

Butterflies are the dessert of an abundant garden.

My little Reno isn't much of a hunter.  We do our best to keep her from becoming the hunted. 

My feet, knees and back used to dream of this garden being finished.  I am now convinced.  This can only happen if I stop dreaming.  

Which in a garden such as this- the magic is unstoppable. 


OldLady Of The Hills said...

BEAUTIFUL in Every Way, Dear Lydia....I Loved seeing your"yard" before you became the passionate Gardener you are! I love all the Wildlife---and all the color of a vry happy place. BRAVA, my dear.

Anonymous said...


Just beautiful!! The only thing better than seeing these photos is seeing it in person. I would love to have beautiful flowers in our yard but too much work for John. (teehee Notice I didn't say "for me") My back would never permit that kind of work.


Hugs, Trisha

Oregon Sue said...

My goodness what a huge difference your gardening skills have made! Absolutely beautiful. You should name it your "Garden of Passion". xo

Joan S Bolton said...

What a transformation!
You've really created your own little garden of Eden for both the critters and for you.
Thanks for sharing all your wonderful photos.

Mary@mydogsmygardenandmary said...

Hi Lydia, I met you yesterday at the Fullerton Garden Tour at the Stanko's garden. Love your post and I am a new follower. Stop by mydogsmygardeandnmary.blogspot.com and see my garden.
Great meeting you.