Read This: Cultivating Garden Style

Cultivating Garden Style

Style, which is about expressing yourself and your unique taste, applies as much to making gardens as to fashion or interior design. Most gardeners naturally prioritize plants when making a garden, but who doesn’t also enjoy accessorizing his or her outdoor spaces with color, furnishings, and accessories like pots, cushions and pillows, and lighting?

In her new book, Cultivating Garden Style: Inspired Ideas and Practical Advice to Unleash Your Garden Personality, Rochelle Greayer, the blogger behind the well-known Studio ‘g’, has fun categorizing gardens with a stylist’s eye. Like a friend who’s good with design, she’s here to help you pinpoint the style your garden leans toward, so you can enhance it, or, if you feel your garden lacks style, help you figure out what you like. The book is essentially a collection of 23 garden mood boards: images of gardens, products, and plants but also works of art, actors in costume, and travel scenes — i.e., anything that evokes a particular mood or style. To use a more contemporary example, mentioned by the author herself, reading the book is like exploring a designer’s Pinterest boards. Stylistically, it also reminds me of HGTV Magazine: visually dynamic, a bit busy at times, and ideal for digesting over short stretches, like your lunch break.


I enjoyed Greayer’s creative and evocative names for the various garden styles she explores. You’ll find Enchanted Bohemian, Tropical Noir, Low Country Shaman, Forest Temple, Playful Pop, and Homegrown Rock ‘N’ Roll, to name a few. Each chapter — each mood board — starts off with an image-dominated, four-page spread outlining the style and the motifs typically used to illustrate it.


Over the next two pages you’re given ideas for accessories to bring the style into your garden, accompanied by pithy descriptions of variations on the style.


Suitable plants are suggested in the next two-page spread.


Then you get a “garden story,” a virtual tour of a real garden that illustrates the style. This section impressed me the most, no matter which garden style I was reading about. Greayer’s ability to find beautiful images of far-flung gardens, and to write about them and their owners as if she knows them personally — well, this is not easy, folks. I don’t know whether she travels widely herself to pull off this feat or if she has a gift for making a stranger’s garden seem intimately familiar, but it’s one of the things I admire about her blog and this book.


Each chapter concludes with two pages of practical information: design tips, how-to projects, horticultural information, and the like. Here Greayer shares a mishmash of handy info about everything from choosing outdoor fabric to firescaping to making your own light fixtures. Newbies will learn some useful gardening information, and DIYers will rejoice over new projects to try.

At 323 pages, the book is packed with colorful photos (including one of mine, from a garden I toured in Austin), accompanied by Greayer’s breezy, conversational text. In spirit it reminds me of Judy Kameon’s Gardens Are for Living, which I reviewed last summer. If your garden is as much for people as for plants, you’ll enjoy reading Cultivating Garden Style to find your favorite style.

Disclosure: Timber Press sent me a copy of the book for review. I reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

posted in Books, Decor, Design

What kind of gardening do YOU block on social media?


I bet we all do it without even thinking about it. But it wasn’t until I read Elizabeth Licata’s post on Garden Rant this week, “2015: the year of the do-nothing garden,” that I’d heard it voiced so baldly. She was vowing to take it easier in her garden next year, to stop fussing and just let it be — all well and good. And then she included a resolution that’s echoed in my head for days:

Ignore all the super-modern, spiffy-clean minimalist garden designs people keep posting in Facebook. In fact, think about blocking anyone who posts them, or at least clicking “I don’t want to see this.”

Wow, blocking someone on social media who posts about a different garden style than one’s own? I was taken aback and instantly started second-guessing myself. Is she talking about me? I do like modern gardens, and although my own will never be minimalist I’m drawn to some that are. Modern and minimalist gardens seem especially well suited to drier parts of the country than Elizabeth’s native Buffalo, New York (or even the South-meets-Southwest climate of Austin, my hometown), and plants naturally grow farther apart and as individual specimens where rainfall is scarce — and this is a look that modern design embraces. Of course it’s quite easy to make a cottage garden in Phoenix or Boise, or a clean-lined contemporary garden in Raleigh or Buffalo, if that’s what you like. But I do think that certain styles lend themselves to the region in which one lives, and don’t merely reflect one’s taste. In that case, if you block a particular style of gardening from your news feed on Facebook or Pinterest or your blogroll, are you also blocking out whole portions of the country?


Image courtesy of morgueFile.com
Isn’t this what many nationally marketed gardening magazines and books did and still do, at least in the U.S.? Focus on one type of gardening, typically the lushly planted, temperate-climate gardens of the Northeast or Pacific Northwest, sometimes adding California Mediterranean for a bit of diversity, and largely ignoring the Southwest, Mountain West, Plains States, Lower Midwest, and Southeast — i.e., “flyover country?” And isn’t this what the democratic age of social media was supposed to ameliorate?

When garden blogs proliferated in 2006 and 2007, suddenly you could read about gardens all over the country and around the world. No longer did gardens have to fit an editor’s narrow idea of perfection. In fact they didn’t have to be anywhere close to perfect! Instead, you could see real gardens made by real people in regions you might know nothing about. Readers in the North were surprised to discover that gardening seasons are often flipped on their heads for southern gardeners. Readers in the South learned about the benefits to northern gardens of winter snow cover and the springtime joys of bulbs and ephemerals. In other words, we quickly learned more about different types of gardens than we ever learned pre-blogs, and it was eye-opening and fun.


Image courtesy of morgueFile.com
But now, with today’s oversaturation of blogs and hourly updates on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, each of us is forced to make decisions about what to read and what to cut out of our feeds. There’s simply not time to read everything. One must curate. And so Elizabeth’s comment about blocking people from her feed who post about gardening styles she’s not into makes sense. But it makes me sad to think we may all be curating ourselves back into the limited experience of gardens we had before the rise of blogs and other social media. Personally, I cut chicken chat and edible gardening posts from my feed, only because I’m not into homesteading and am into ornamental, wildlife, dry-climate, and native-plant gardening, with a lot of modern design thrown in for fun. My taste isn’t better than anyone else’s. Your taste isn’t better than mine. It’s all just what we like and have time for. But amid the plenty don’t you feel a bit of loss for what we miss and how we narrow our world by blocking and clicking “I don’t want to see this?”


Image courtesy of morgueFile.com
So fess up. What do you curate out of your social media feeds? And do you think it’s a necessary evil, or do you find it liberating to essentially create your own weekly magazine of garden stuff you love?

And for the record, I hope when my friend Elizabeth Licata reads this she understands that I intend no personal criticism. On the contrary, I appreciate how her post got me thinking. That’s another thing garden blogs are good for!

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Read This: Sunset Western Landscaping Book

Sunset Western Landscaping Book

If you live in the western U.S. and your New Year’s resolution is to beautify your landscaping or create a sustainable, water-smart garden, I have the book for you: Sunset Western Landscaping Book, 2006 edition. It’s not a new release, but it’s worth seeking out. And actually, you need not live in the West, Sunset‘s target region, to find inspiration in this book, which is jam-packed with images of beautiful and creative gardens that anyone will enjoy. Austin itself is too far east to be included in Sunset’s coverage area, and yet local readers will find plenty of ideas to put to use in their own gardens. From garden vignettes that emphasize detail to wide views that show layout, this book covers it all with gorgeous images and clearly written, practicality-minded text.

Aside from eye candy, the book offers a broad design tutorial, with practical info about building structure into the garden with arbors, patios, and walls, designing for small spaces, creating a fire-resistant landscape, adding privacy, choosing furniture and decor to accent your garden, and more. Plants are covered by broad type — trees, shrubs, palms, roses, perennials, grasses, natives, etc. — with an emphasis on water-wise gardening. Readers are urged to reduce the lawn, plant water-thrifty plants, irrigate efficiently, and generally create a garden suitable to the increasingly water-challenged West.

This is a book to pore over on winter evenings, dreaming of new features to install in your garden or a fresh planting design to replace that tired, dried-out lawn. It’s also a great resource for the new homeowner or any gardener newly transplanted to the West. If you’re resolved on making a beautiful garden in 2015 and need a kickstart, I think you’ll find this book to be an excellent coach.

Disclosure: I purchased Sunset Western Landscaping Book myself and reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.