Photo/Illustration: Melissa Buntin
I love making plans for my garden—but not on paper. My most rewarding design efforts take place as I’m daydreaming. I gaze about the garden and imagine what I’d like to see. I think about the lines of its paths and beds, the interplay of plants, and the juxtaposition of shapes, textures, and colors. Hours of such seeming inactivity suddenly yield fruit—an “Aha!” moment that opens the sluice gates of my creativity. Now I know the perfect spot for that new ‘Sky Pencil’ holly. It’ll look great rising alongside the red dome of a Japanese maple.
Though my approach to design may seem unorthodox, I suspect it’s shared by many. I view garden making as an evolving process rather than as the pursuit of a fixed idea (aka a plan on paper). My fluid, ongoing method is as flexible as it gets. I simply remember that nothing need be permanent and that it’s interesting and usually easy to change things. I’m often not quite sure where my efforts are leading, and I don’t really care. I’m trying new plants and new ideas, and I’m having fun. I’m open to changing conditions, flashes of inspiration, and sudden whims. Every garden-design problem has many solutions, and exploring the possibilities excites me. I keep refining my vision of my garden, and its beds and borders look better every season.
On the whole, I’m not worried about making mistakes. That’s because, as a friend once pointed out, making a mistake just gives me the chance to do a little more gardening. Nonetheless, there are several techniques I use to support and hone my intuitive design process.