How did you get ideas for specific gardens?
FC: Besides observing the land and then seeing potential in that, a picture in a magazine or book often got me thinking in a certain direction. Or occasionally I saw something while visiting another garden. Our moon bridge was inspired by a visit to China. I took a photograph of a bridge when I was there and adapted it here (photo above, bottom center). Often the idea for a particular garden or planting comes to me as I’m weeding.
Being self-taught in garden design, do you have suggestions for other gardeners on how they might learn to design their gardens?
FC: Everyone has to go through a learning process, whether it’s learning about plants or about the actual design of gardens. I started with plants. I wanted to have one of everything. With each plant I grew, I tried to understand its nature, where it belonged, and how to use it in a garden. I started my first gardening experiments at Stonecrop. That garden was created haphazardly, and I made many mistakes along the way. There was no overall discipline in the layout. Here, I was fortunate to inherit this landscape with gardens around the house already designed by my uncle, Eddie Matthews, who was an accomplished architect. So there is a real backbone to this garden that has guided our efforts.
When people ask me, “What should I do to get started in making gardens?” I say that before you start your landscape design, just immerse yourself in plants. For example, work for a nursery where you can just get to know plants. Then you’ll be able to create much better gardens.