27. FROM PALETTE TO GARDENSCAPES: Planning Your Home Garden

While staying home in these times of stress and anxiety during Covid, I have had lot of time to plan out my garden. Writing of planning, I had earlier been traveling to Vermont libraries around the state doing a workshop called - Planning and Designing Your Home Garden. Again, before Covid.

I begin by having folks do a sketch of their ideal garden with graph paper, pencils and lots of erasers. Upon completion, they share their plans with the group. Believe me, I’ve learned as much as the participants.

Here is a short introduction to guide you through the exercise. You can also participate. Let’s get started. I begin by asking the following questions:
Do you just want a garden of ea-tin?

Would you like to grow blueberries and raspberries, currants, other berries or small fruit trees?

Do you want a garden of contemplation filled with flowers in varied hues and scent?

Do you want a sun-filled garden with roses and dahlias or a shaded area with ferns and hostas or both?

Do you want to grow native pollinator plants?

Do you want to replace your lawn with trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, perennials, climbers, ground covers and a flowering crab-apple to boot?

Would you use containers to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers if you live in a condo or apartment?

Please remember that the heart of a garden is an extension of yourself.

CHAD - Compulsive Horticulture Acquisition Disorder
Do you know about CHAD? This is a perennial problem, not to make a pun. Gardeners have a tendency after a long winter's sojourn, to BUY, BEG and BORROW plants in spring. And then they are faced with the challenge of where to place all of the plants.
They may ask themselves the question - why did I buy all these perennials, shrubs, fruit trees and vegetable plants? Some impulse gardeners have good intentions but lack clarity and aesthetics. In other words, they have CHAD, which wastes money, time and effort. Don't get me wrong. I have this problem as well. Perhaps I should form a support group for all the CHADDERS out there. That’s why it makes sense to have a plan. If we only had listened to Goethe who said,” The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." In other words, a garden is more than a collection of plants."

HERE ARE - - Four Historical Styles: Curves and Straight Lines
One way of planning your garden is by looking at different periods and styles of garden design. Decide which one is best for you.

a. English Cottage Garden - A scramble of wildflowers, herbs and vegetables - like an Impressionist Painting od Monet. In my front yard, I have a cottage garden - called GARDENING OF MY STOOP where there are few straight lines and lots of curves.

b. Victorian - This design period reflected a more formal - estate type garden with straighter lines. The French have lots of estate gardens. There are some in Burlington in the upper high streets. They have lots of lawns, conifers, and trees. More straight lines than curves.
c. Modern – This is more the suburban garden with lawns, fewer plants and straight lines. It’s based on the architectural style of Frank Lloyd Wright.

d. The Green Garden – This is the newest style of garden with more curves. Lawns are removed and native pollinators are welcomed along with perennials, shrubs and trees. The idea is to cut your carbon footprint and create a more sustainable garden setting.

One of Vermont’s earlier “dream gardens” is at the 1851 Justin Morrill Homestead built after he retired from store keeping and now a State Historic Site. Morrill, the son of a Strafford blacksmith bought into the Gothic Revival landscape and gardening plans promoted by Andrew Jackson Downing in the 1840’s and 50’s. His Homestead is one of the best surviving examples of this Romantic gardening style in the country.

Morrill kept excellent records and his plan which listed and coded what he planted is still on view at the Homestead as are many of his plantings. Well worth a trip to Strafford. It is still possible to walk around the grounds which have descriptive signage. Check it out online at: https://www.morrillhomestead.org/gardens/
By the way, the dark side of Justin Morrill had to do with the taking away of Indian lands to white settlers. Morrill was instrumental in this movement.