Monday, February 19, 2007

Design and the Paralysis of Choice

DD One
This is the time of year we gardeners are supposed to sit back and happily finish our plans for summer activities. We’ve made drawing, plans and lists. We’ve looked at glossy magazines until our eyes burn. Now we’re planting our dream seeds and resting our bodies for the onslot of summer activity. But wait! Why do I feel so tired?

Perhaps, its because my reality is something closer to a state of anxious obsession. For starters, those restful activities really don’t provide me a lot of rest. Instead they fill me with longing, anxiety, and angst. Talk about over planning! In my manic mind I can do it all – not a limit in sight! Until spring hits, that is. The problem now, of course, is that spring is growing closer and I am beginning to see the cracks in my over ambition. When was I going to dig up that perennial bed? Oh that’s right, at 4 am one morning when I have nothing else to do. Therein lies the true reason for all the winter knitting - just working off that neurotic energy. It looks so innocent, doesn’t it? Even a simple design like the garden entrance shown above requires a considerable amount of yarn working to get right.

Fortunately, this time of year, I am often saved from the brink of a complete and total planning breakdown by people calling about their own garden designs. As it turns out I can pull unsuspecting clients into this gardening frenzy as well – how fun! So I march forth to spread the disease as best I can. But seriously, It brings me special pleasure to help earnest clients make pleasing, and hopefully reasonable, decisions about where to place trees, shrubs and apple trees; to mull over, with them, the perfect spot for a perennial bed; a berry patch or an herb border; to solve complicated drainage and wind problems and choose the perfect place to place a pond or a staircase, like that shown here. The is part of a large project that took weeks to concieve and several months to complete. The chances for paralysis were many! It is a myth to believe that I know what I’m doing all the time, but I do enjoy doing it, wherever it leads.

So before you have some lolly-headed designer come and make sense of your gardening woes, turn to other resources. Books are what I have in mind. They are a heck of a deal if you compare them to a living designer, and will loop you right back into garden fury without ever leaving the couch.

But first this. Curt Mueller, a friend, fellow gardener, and a great plants man, recommended the following sites and asked that I pass them on to you for the valuable information on germination they provide. I checked them out, and he’s right, of course. Here they are: and Thanks, Curt!

Now for some hard-cover therapy. Classic Garden Plans by David Stuart is a fairly new book of pre-designed gardens. Its advertisement touts it as being “… invaluable to any gardener who wants to design a garden with powerful historical associations, ...” It has great information on how to adapt classic designs into limited spaces and even gives you detailed shopping lists to carry out the plans.

Along the same lines, with pre-designed gardens in varying degrees are; Theme Gardens by Barbara Damrosch, Shortcuts to Great Gardens by Nigel Colborn, Rosemary Verey’s Garden Plans by Rosemary Verey, The Impressionest Garden by Derek Fell and Penelope Hobhouse’s Garden Designs by Penelope Hobhouse. Each of these books has its own take on good quality designs, and grouped, they are a virtual feast for the eyes and hours of fuel for the frenzy! Chucked full of lovely drawings and photos, these books are a collective treasure trove of valuable plant information and design hints on color, form, texture and problem solving. I could go on and on – I do read when I’m not knitting, you know. Well, actually, sometimes when I am knitting. Oops! There’s that neurosis again! If I must be honest, sometimes I draw while I'm knitting (don't ask). I like simple plans, such as this one, which focus in on one or two areas of the yard at a time. Leaving some areas as only ideas allows the opportunity for more drawing later, thus more ideas.

At any rate, suffice to say that there’s a splendid pile of new books on the floor in front of the bookshelf – they seem to grow faster than I can read – or knit. I’ll let you know what I think of them later, but for now I’ll leave you with this thought for spring: no matter how much you plan, there is no such thing as a perfect garden. Those who fall captive to the paralysis of design perfection find themselves unable to turn the earth in the spring. For heaven sakes! Just get on with it! The only thing you’ll regret later is that you didn’t do it sooner.


Yolanda Elizabet said...

I'm perfectly happy with the fact that there is no perfect garden. :-D How boring that garden would be, don't you think? What would we gardeners do then?

Found your blog via someone else's. Alaska eh? When does your Spring start? Over here (the Netherlands, Europe) it will start on 21 March. Well, that's what the calender says anyway. In reality Spring can start here anywhere between February to June. And sometimes we skip it altogether and go straight into Summer.

Like your blog, will visit again. Keep knitting! ;-)

Kathy said...

You should join to catalog your books, and then join us at the Gardening Group within LT, where we talk about them.

david said...

hello there, divas both! I'm delighted that you liked Classic Garden Plans, and hope that you and your readers find it useful. It was certainly great fun to write. Perhaps you might like to visit my website and blog at ? Wet wet wet here, and now thick fog in from the North Sea.

phempton said...

Yes it is a struggle to accept the chaos and only choose a few things from the endless possibilities! I thought we were limited here in Washington State, but then I see you guys up in Alaska! Nice blog.


Patrick - I Heart Gardening

Jungle Joella said...

Hmmmmmm, drawing while you knit eh? Books piling up in front of the book shelf? I don't think you have any neurosis! You are - a high functioning, multitasker - one of those people who knew early on that life is too short to all that you want to! Cram it all in and enjoy!