Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
March, 2011
Regional Report

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Inspired by the formal gardens of Colonial Williamsburg, this symmetrical garden was made with straight paths and direct-line focal points.

Change of Art

In the past week or so, I've bumped into a number of people who've voiced dismay about my move to a new location by asking "Aren't you sad about leaving your garden?" I'll admit, I did come close to tears a month ago when my friend, Rosemary, a professional photographer, showed me the beautiful garden images she captured just days before the final box was packed. Except for that one moment, however, I've never looked back with remorse.

The couple who purchased my previous home, Marie and Steve, are thrilled with their choice and truly relish the idea of cultivating the landscape. In January, when I made a brief visit to identify plants and answer questions, they told me again how eager they are learn and to share the garden with each other and their friends.

With these new stewards, the garden is bound to change, but even that doesn't make me unhappy. In fact, I would worry if it weren't modified. To become truly engaged in the process and invested in its future, it's essential they make the garden their own.

It's been more than a decade since my husband, Tim, and I moved to the Upstate and I began creating that landscape. Now, a new opportunity to learn and grow stretches before me. The terrain and conditions at the new house are vastly different, and like Marie and Steve, I expect the cultivation of this space will reward me many times over in the months to come.

But here's another interesting thought: I'm not the same person I was ten years ago. Since the defining ideas for my old garden were put to paper, I've been influenced and changed by a number of experiences, including many that had nothing to do with gardening.

For instance, I've had the opportunity to broaden my horizons by traveling a good deal, and Tim and I recently celebrated the birth of our first grandchild. Even my gardening interests, which once focused on design and color, are now driven by an enthusiasm for local ecosystems and the native plants and animals that sustain them.

All of these changes, and others too, are influencing the design and development of my new garden. Or in other words, a change of heart is fostering a change of art.

The previous garden, with its strict symmetry, straight paths, and direct-line focal points, was a manifestation of my early attraction to the formal gardens of Colonial Williamsburg. While I still find well-ordered landscapes pleasing, I'm finding myself more and more enthralled by circles, spirals, and what landscape designer and author Julie Moir Messervy calls "voluptuous curves."

As I look ahead, I'm also contemplating ways to encourage a love of nature in my granddaughter, Caitlin. Though I gardened in a matter-of-fact way with both of my sons when they were young, I want this new space to engage Caitlin's imagination. Perhaps there will be a path of flagstones among the hostas and ferns so we can search for fairies, or I'll fashion a secret nook for reading under the sweeping branches of the hemlocks.

I can even picture a river-side tree house with a swinging bridge to the backyard where we can pretend we're pirates or sit quietly to watch the red-tail hawks that swoop between the trees. Of course, she'll have her own little yardstick garden too -- a plot of nine square feet to grow anything she likes.

No, I can honestly say I'm not the least bit sad about the move. The garden left behind is a happy memory, not an object of regret. My heart is intact, my mind is racing with ideas, my hands are eager for the trowel, and my eyes are on the future.

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