Garden Designers Roundtable: Inspiration

Garden Designers Roundtable: Inspiration

This is a perfect post for January gardening, when the weather is cold and nasty, the wind is howling and you can sit inside with a cup of coffee or hot tea and read about what inspires garden designers. Actually, today in Austin Texas, it's an enviable 68 degrees and sunny — and I just planted more veggies in my garden just a couple of days ago. But for most of you, it's cold and nasty and the wind is howling. So what inspires me? Anything. Everything. But to narrow it down:
  1. Garden Shows. I've been going to the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show for three years now, and can't wait to make my annual trek again this March. And last year, I also attended the Northwest Flower and Garden Show for the first time. I went to a show in Chicago about 7 years ago, too. So's why go? First, the display gardens are incredible — but remember to view them as inspiration, not as a literal translation of what to do in your own garden. Make note of plant trends like succulents, materials like rock or concrete, patterns such as checkerboards or spirals, and color combinations that you may not have previously considered. After the display gardens, be sure to check out the vendors' booths for new garden art, books and tools before heading over to the sessions to hear garden designers, authors and speakers talk about everything under the sun.
DSC_0155 DSC_0152 Wooden globes
JGS planter close up DSC_0229 glass garden art
  1. Public Gardens. Botanic gardens, wildflower centers and conservatories are great places to see a wide variety of plants in real gardens designed to educate and inspire. Many of these places also offer classes in horticulture, sustainability, native plants and designing, so be sure to get on their email list. And while I'm at it, I'm going to encourage you to pay for an annual membership rather than simply plunk down $10 every time you go — you'll save money and it will go for a good cause! These centers typically operate on shoestring budgets and depend upon their memberships to continue inspiring the public. My favorites in the Austin area are the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Zilker Botanical Garden.
    Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

    Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

  2. Friends' Gardens. I'm lucky; I live in Austin, Texas –  home to an unusually large number of garden bloggers. We even have a group that meets up once a month for what we call a "Go-Go" (I think it's short for "Garden A Go-Go" but I can't really be sure), when we help out a fellow gardener with a trouble spot in their garden. Inevitably, though, we are all inspired by what we see in our friends' gardens — the bed layout, a cool way to use stock tanks, a gorgeous tea house, a charming potting area. So many ideas, so little time.
Rebecca_s garden sedge walkway Blue gazing ball
  1. Garden Books & Magazines. The months from February until about April are the salivating-worthy days when all the new garden books come out — and as it just so happens, my book, "Indoor Plant Decor," with co-author and friend Kylee Baumle, will be coming out in April! Look for other new books like "Fine Foliage"  by Christina Salwitz and Karen Chapman and "Lawn Gone" by Pam Penick, as well as last year's favorite book "Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard" by Jessi Bloom. Garden magazines that I turn to every month include Southern Living (Steve Bender's sly garden writing was one of my inspirations to begin writing about gardens myself), Fine Gardening and HorticultureFinal Cover
  2. Garden Blogs & Websites. There are so, so many sites to lure you in and dazzle you with their eye-candy photos and witty and informative posts (like these!) on plants, design and gardens. My favorites? I am loving Houzz for its huge gallery of images (this link is to my collection of "ideabooks" or articles), Kylee Baumle's "Our Little Acre," Pam Penick's "Digging," "Studio G" by Rochelle Greayer and "Urban Gardens" by Robin Horton.

    Urban Gardens blog

Look around you — notice details, make notes, take photographs, bookmark sites — and take the best of what you see and what makes your heart thud, and begin to visualize this "thing" in your garden, whether it's a plant, a pot, a color or an entire composition. And here to inspire you further are my colleagues from the Garden Designers Roundtable — take a few minutes to check out their blogposts on inspiration in the garden. I'm sure you'll find something that will ring your bell and resonate with your soul. Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA  

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  1. says

    Thanks so much for the nice shout-outs, Jenny! Like you, I feel lucky to live and garden in Austin, where there’s so much inspiration to be found in other garden bloggers, tours, and, for me, the Wildflower Center. But I expect that inspiration is available everywhere, no matter where you live, if you just take the time to really LOOK.

  2. says

    I love that all of the posts every month on the Roundtable are so individual and different. There’s no repetition on any one designer’s perspective. Nice to have you back, Jenny! – S

  3. says

    Monthly Garden à Go-Go! I’m so envious. All excellent ideas, Jenny — and I particularly agree with yearly membership in your local public garden. If we value it, it usually doesn’t take too much $$ to support it.

  4. says

    So many good points here.
    But what I loved most was your use of the words:
    ‘what makes your heart thud’
    if all design elements in the world were done on that aethos what a world we would have!
    Look forward to hearing how the headlight veg does!!

  5. says

    We both featured shows as inspiration- GREAT minds Miss Jenny! And, can’t let this opportunity go by without a HUGE thank you for the shout out to Fine Foliage- HUGS!!

  6. says

    One of the best ways I’ve used my Lady Bird Johnson membership is to get in to Botanical Gardens across the country. I’ve used it at Missouri Botanical Garden and Berkley Botanical Garden. I think most of these places have reciprocity agreements so be sure and take your card and ask.

  7. says

    Great suggestions Jenny! Not only in mentioning venues, but in how to approach them and take away something useful. I’m also jealous of your “Go-Go” community (doesn’t that sound saucy…) in Austin. We’d have a tough time of it here when the frozen tundra returns each winter. 🙁

  8. says

    It will always be a mystery to me how until now I missed this lovely shout out to me and Urban Gardens–especially since you Jenny were the first person to comment on my blog when it launched more than 4 years ago. I remember how thrilled I was, but even more how excited I was to “meet” you and learn about your blog and your design work. It wasn’t till almost a year later that I realized I hadn’t put together that @mulchmaven was you–that gorgeous, fun, and totally cool woman in the cowboy boots I finally got to meet in person at my first Garden Writers Conference in Dallas. I have been forever grateful to have you as my first intro to the blogosphere and still feel honored to be in your company.


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