icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Thoughts and Musings

Making Something Out of Nothing

Planning the design for my first garden. To see the results, click on the featured in This Old House link in the text. 



The ultimate creative challenge—and thrill—is to start with a completely clean slate: To create an entirely new concept; to visualize something truly new and different. I enjoyed doing that in creating my first garden from a virtually empty backyard. But even then—as with writing a novel—certain fundamentals are useful guides.

Fundamental elements

There’s usually something that has to be used. Like it or not, budget precluded replacing the ugly garage and the yard measured just 40 feet at its widest point by 30 feet deep. The 1939 house was a Tudor revival, English cottage style, and its brick façade had strong orange tones accented with purple. I liked it, but it did impose design constraints.

Likewise, I had to do a lot of prep work before starting Chapter 1 of my novel: What was it about? Who were the characters, and what was at stake for them? How could their stories be told? Then, I needed to create an outline.

Form and function

How will the creation be used? How much flexibility do we need to provide? Is there an order to revealing information? How much detail should be included?

I wanted my tiny garden to provide several things:
• An overall feeling of privacy and tranquility
• Dining options in sun or shade
• A fountain
• A hammock
• A swing
• Adirondack chairs with a table
• Wind chimes
• Formal paths and service paths
• The ability to wander
• Lots of roses, herbs and perennials

Design solutions included replacing the ratty old hedge with a pretty cedar fence to increase usable space, building a large arbor to hide the garage and put the relaxing area away from the side abutting the neighbors, and using two entry arches and paths to provide directional choices that led to the different “rooms” of the garden. Roses were predominately apricot and orange blends; catmint, lavender, and salvia related to the purple tones in the brick—and all combined beautifully in an informal cottage garden.

The unexpected

Being new to roses at the time, I didn’t know that colors would change during the life of blooms. A group in the center of the garden turned out to be much more pink than expected, so I added others in various shades of pink to make the color look intentional—and was surprised to see how well they worked with the orange roses! That garden was featured in This Old House magazine in 2013, and lives on today in its online archives.

For my novel, I structured it as a non-traditional family saga. Even then, I realized the outline I'd developed couldn't be covered in one volume. So, I chose a major event as the natural close to a major phase in the characters' lives--and wrote a cliff-hanger ending to set up the next book in what will be a series!

Be the first to comment