Five specific concepts that make up my dream garden? Well, first you have to understand where I'm coming from. I've traveled a lot and have had three or four gardens of my own. I have experienced the semi-pro gardens of my grandparents, cousins, husband, grandfather and uncle. I've also seen some beautiful gardens in Europe, the U.S. and even China. So there are five gardens I covet:
- The English country cottage garden: The best example I have ever seen was a friend's in Berkeley in the 1970s. It was full of tall colorful perennials and self-seeding annuals, mulched with cocoa hulls (smelled wonderful as you walked up the steps) and fenced with a polished redwood fence.
- The wildflower meadow: Again, the best example was owned by friends, who had 10 acres of reclaimed meadow in the Hill Country in Texas. There is nothing like the wildflowers of Texas: bluebonnets and paintbrush in spring, coneflowers and Mexican hats in summer.
- The woodland garden: Never actually saw the ultimate of this, although we did come close in one we planted in southwest London the four years we lived there. This townhouse had a front and a back garden dominated by two conker trees. Conkers (horse chestnuts) of that size were protected by the borough, so we had to keep them. We had to get written permission just to trim them! And they create deep, dark shade and suck water out of the ground. Growing something in those two gardens was a challenge my husband could not resist.
We bought the British gardening encyclopedias, watched Gardener's World faithfully on BBC2, went to the garden shows at Chelsea and Hampton Court and to the country house and local garden centers, and spent a fortune on plants trying to see what would and what wouldn't grow in that dry, dry shade.
By the time we left London, we had created a garden in the back with hostas, ferns, columbine, Lenten and Christmas roses, miniature daffodils, "bizzie lizzies" and a climbing hydrangea intertwined with some clematis. The front garden was a work in progress when we left -- packed with bulbs we bought in Holland, bleeding heart, trillium and more daffodils.
- A rose garden: My favorite is the one in Exposition Park, Los Angeles. No more needs be said -- that is a public garden with a staff!
- A kitchen garden: I love the one created on the original Crockett's Victory Garden years ago on PBS (not the pale copy that Victory Garden is now). Why? Because both my grandfathers and my husband Charles' stepgrandfather were gardeners.
I remember the taste of fresh produce from those gardens. I also remember the tomatoes and corn one could buy from roadside stands when I was little. Nothing in the stores meets those expectations! I want that taste back.