Read an Excerpt
I’m a handmade gardening gal—part eco-friendly, non-traditionalist, part crafty creative with more ideas than money. My garden is my canvas, my vision, and my voice. A place where I am free of all rules, except those of Nature herself. It’s where I make my unique mark on the world.
As kids we did this intuitively. My friends and I dug holes and pinched herbs from the neighbor’s garden for imaginary feasts of chives and rhubarb. We carved trails in the blackberry underbrush and wrecked a fair amount of havoc on the landscape; did you ever make confetti from the stripped leaves of a cotoneaster? Works great! Pleasantly tired, thoroughly filthy, and completely blissed out, we fought off the dusk and parental calls to come indoors at the end of the day for a bath and bed. Begging for just a few more minutes, we could hardly bear to tear ourselves away from our muddy adventures—even if it was just until morning when we tumbled outdoors again, ready for another day of discovery.
Fast-forward to today. Somewhere along the garden path, outdoor fun and games have been hijacked by yard work. Demanding work schedules and responsibilities barely leave time for weekend mowing and blowing; boring, tedious, onerous jobs more like dusting and vacuuming than play.
Or, maybe you’re like me: I fell for gardening—hard—with a passion known only to the truly plant-obsessed. From antique sweet peas to heirloom bulbs and the latest, greatest annual, I wanted them all. For thirteen years I was the owner and operator of a small specialty nursery called Fremont Gardens; a great way to scratch my acquisitive itch. What’s more, I live in the Pacific Northwest, land of fertile soil, a benign climate, and more horticultural heroes and zealots than you can shake a hard-to-find, double-flowered, winter-blooming hellebore at. I was in good company and we reveled in a veritable horticultural heyday—until the weight of our garden chores nearly killed us.
There’s far more to gardening than purchasing plants and following the latest design trend. When was the last time you just goofed off in the garden; lolled in long grass or played house outdoors? Now that you’re finally old enough to stay up past dark, why not watch the moon rise and witness the mysterious nighttime garden as it comes alive with heady fragrance, powdery moths, and unfamiliar noises?
I hope that this book—part idea inspiration and part instructional DIY guide—motivates you to get outside and craft your own personal landscape. You’ll find a collection of clever, easy-to-make projects that convert basic hardware store materials, found objects, and the occasional bit of basement debris into distinctive garden furnishings with a modern sensibility and resourceful spirit. Craftsmanship and the expected level of construction expertise definitely fall on the make-do/can-do end of the spectrum with no sacrifice in the sophistication of the final result.
You might be surprised to discover that chapter 1—“Getting Started”—includes an exhortation to clean the garage. While that may not sound very playful, with a little indoor digging you may discover that you already own a great deal of everyday goods, scraps, and raw materials just waiting to be recycled, repurposed, re-envisioned, and imaginatively put to use in the garden.
Starting with the very foundation of your landscape, chapter 2 spotlights projects that accessorize and ornament pathways , patios, and even the lawn. Chapters 3 and 4 look at design and decor features that focus the eye and make up the heart of the garden with gathering spaces and creature comforts. Clever containers and stylish finishing touches—chapters 5 and 6—take your yard way beyond uniformity to a beautiful, one-of-a-kind space that’s abundantly productive, comfortable, and entertaining. To help you manage the garden with style and efficiency, chapter 7 includes projects, tips, and practices focused on organization and storage.
Crafting projects with made-from-scratch ingenuity is easy, thrifty, and as much fun as those carefree days of yesteryear (and not nearly so hard on the cotoneaster). These days I cultivate a delicious vegetable garden where ornamental grasses and highbrow perennials once ruled. Overcrowded shrub borders have been supplanted by a generous fire circle and a tiny wooden deck furnished with a handmade cocktail table. Though my yard is still filled with lush plantings, it’s no longer a tiger I have loosely by the tail. Today my garden fits my life and I’m having a blast.
Whether you have acres of land, a simple city-sized lot, an apartment balcony, or even just a somewhat sunny windowsill, I’ll show you how to transform your little patch of the big outdoors into a refreshing, unique garden paradise.
Go outside—it’s a nice day!