When you visit other gardens in other cities, you can take away something that is even better than a passalong plant. You can take home ideas for your own garden.
Now don’t get me wrong, passalong plants are special, and I’ll never turn down the offer of a start of a plant from another gardener’s garden. And I’m grateful for the passalong plants I got this past weekend, and with great effort, I did not say “thank you”. (Not saying thank you is a tough rule to follow when receiving plants from another gardener!)
But ideas? Ideas are easy to pack, won’t cause a raised eyebrow in airport security, and don’t have to be planted as soon as you get home. But once used in your own garden, ideas can remind you of the gardener who gave them to you, just as much as a plant can.
While in Austin for the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling, I gathered pages of ideas from many gardens and gardeners and brought them back to my Indiana garden. Some of them I will act upon quickly, others will be there, waiting in my notes, for their time.
My first idea came from Annie in Austin, who told me the secret about her secret garden. But I swore not to reveal it. I can, however, reveal the secret of how she makes her garden seem bigger. Paraphrasing Henry Mitchell, Annie said, “Double the space by dividing it”. Her garden is divided into little vignettes, beautifully planted with the flowers that most appeal to her. And because she knows and loves each flower in her garden of vignettes, her garden feels like a garden ought to feel, like there is a gardener there who tends it and cares for it, and knows it.
As I look at my garden, on its suburban lot, I think I’ll use Annie’s idea to plant some vignettes, to divide the space more, to give the garden a larger feel but at the same time provide smaller spaces to really know and love in the garden.
Pam/Digging opened up her garden and home for a social hour with all the bloggers. I could look in any direction in her garden and see many ideas to bring back to my own garden. Pam might just be starting a container revolution in the garden industry by using stock tanks of different sizes as planters. Stock tanks are perfect for water gardens, since they are designed to hold water. Or as shown here sunk down into the garden at Pam’s, they can frame a speciman plant. And if you drill holes in them for drainage, before you plant them up, you can also use them to create beautiful miniature landscapes, bringing the plants and flowers more to eye-level.
I’m thinking of where I can put a stock tank planter in my garden now. I’ve used a small metal wash tub as a planter for several years, but that’s just not the same. And burying a stock tank might be the perfect way to have some mint, and still maintain a garden.
MSS at Zanthan Gardens seems to have figured out, over many seasons, that her garden will have its days of delight and she’s worked to plant annuals that will make those days as delightful as she can. I was fortunate that some of the most delightful days occurred in early April when I was there. She’s overcome challenges of soil and shade, and plans that didn’t work out, to create an oasis in Austin where visitors can relax amongst spiderworts, cilantro, and larkspurs blooming under a light shade from new leaves on the trees. She welcomed many of the bloggers to stop by and relax.
In Melissa’s garden, I am reminded that sometimes gardening is about making choices and that sometimes just watching and waiting and seeing what the garden wants to become is a choice, too. I’ll spend some time watching and waiting in my garden.
I’ve got other ideas, too, from visiting other gardens in and around Austin.
I want to paint my black compost tumbler so that it blends in more with the surroundings. I think a tan/light brown would make it less obvious where it is beside the privacy fence in my raised bed vegetable garden. This idea came from the garden of Jenny Stocker, who was also one of our guides at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Don’t look for a carefully camouflaged barrel in this picture. It’s behind that shed in her vegetable garden and I didn’t think to take a picture of it.
MSS uses old tiles as place markers in her garden. I like that idea, as the tiles aren’t really visible until you are right up on the plant.
A little pile of unusual found rocks adds interest to a garden area, if put where people can see them.
I’m sure there will be more ideas that will come to me in an odd moment here and there as I tend my garden, look back on pictures of the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling, and read the many posts that will be written about it. Some of the ideas I’ll recognize as “seedlings” from this trip; other ideas will just come to me and I’ll wonder where the thought came from, just like I wonder sometimes where a new plant came from that just shows up in my garden.
None of these ideas are revolutionary and many are not new, even to my own garden. But now that I can connect them to a place and time, to a garden and gardener, they will make my own garden feel more connected to gardens and gardeners across the country and around the world.
I am lacking in pictures to go with most of these new ideas that I brought home with me so I encourage you to visit the blogs linked above of these wonderful Austin gardeners, who gave me ideas to bring back to my Indiana garden and were so welcoming to all of us bloggers this past weekend.