Where Do You Get Inspiration for Garden Design?

(Frost on Autumn Joy sedum... late fall is definitely feeling a lot like winter.)

When you are summoned to jury duty, take a book with you. In fact, take a good gardening book with you.

Guess who had to report for jury duty today?

Jury duty, as it turned out, was a mighty good opportunity to start reading the next selection of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, Dear Friend and Gardener by Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd.

I’m a good citizen and potential juror, so of course I stopped reading when the nice lady gave us instructions on filling out forms and taking breaks and showed us a video about what to expect if we actually served on a jury. I also looked up from my book whenever she called out the names of those who needed to go off to a courtroom. Yes, I was on time, cooperative, and attentive when I needed to be.

But the rest of the time, I was transported to England becoming acquainted with “Beth and Christo” through their correspondence back and forth. I felt as though I was eavesdropping on their conversations or had snuck in to one of their homes and was reading letters left out on their writing desks.

As I started reading this book, I got the sense that this winter might turn out like last winter, when I read Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence – A Friendship in Letters. After reading that book of letters between those two gardeners, I read a biography of Elizabeth Lawrence and one of her books and I have in my library a biography of White, still to be read, and her book, Onward and Upward in the Garden, half read.

After I read Dear Friend and Gardener, I suspect I’ll want to read a book or two by Christopher Lloyd and a book by Beth Chatto. I already have several books by Lloyd in my library, but not by Chatto. Does anyone have any recommendations?

For those still considering if they want to join several of us in reading Dear Friend and Gardener for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, here’s a little snippet written by Beth in a letter to Christopher Lloyd.

“Personally, I think we may have a wider approach to garden design if we have been helped to appreciate other forms of art; to be aware of basic principles – balance, repetition, harmony, and simplicity – which apply to all forms of creativity. To look for these ideas in painting and architecture, or hear them in music, has certainly influenced me as much as knowing whether to put a plant in the shade, or in full sun.”

Just think about that for awhile. Think about your own garden design. Is it enhanced through exposure to other arts? Do you see a great painting or hear some music that gives you a great idea for your garden? Where do you get your inspiration for garden design?

(Jury duty? As it turned out, my name was never called to go to a courtroom, so I was done by 11:30, thanked for coming, and released to return to work.)


  1. Funny you should write about that, Carol. Monet, one of the world's most beloved and recognized artists said that he'd never have been one if he hadn't been a gardener first ! So there.

    As an artist I think we have a sense of color, harmony, and design that just comes naturally. I know that I get just as much pleasure from creating a garden as I do a painting and often times it seems that they are quite the same.

  2. Carol, you will love Christo's Garden Flowers for more of his dry wit and personal observations (even when you don't agree with him.)

    I also enjoyed Beth Chatto's Drought-Resistant Garden, but I'm not so sure that it has as wide of an appeal as Christo's writings do. I devoured it, though, because I loved the ideas for my own dry gardens.

  3. Thats so funny, today in the mail my Husband and Son both had letters for jury duty. When they got home I told them that they had received an early Christmas gift in the mail...they didn't see the humor??

  4. Carol, I completely agree with the sentiment expressed in the quote. In my checkered past I was a musician in the Bay Area, and I have always loved art and architcture. In addition to studying books on gardens, and visiting gardens, I have spent a lot of time studying oriental garden design.

    When I start looking at a space where I am going to put a garden, I spend a lot of time just listening to it. I watch teh area to see what birds fly through, to see how the light passes over it. And I gaze at it with an empty heart, waiting for the space to tell me what is supposed to go there. Then I let it grow before me.

    I've been trying to illustrate that process in my series of posts on the new stroll garden. We finally got the underlying rock and soil structure done yesterday, nwo all I need is a McArthur Foundation grant for plants. . .

  5. http://rlerallut.free.fr/images/Arthus/36.html
    This picture inspires me and other
    Arthus Bertrands pictures. This particular one Potager is one of the favorites. The green, the little man and the 'stict' order. Otherwise it's the nature around me that inspires. lol Tyra in Vaxholm.

  6. I get inspiration from so many things, but mostly from mother nature herself. Love the book by Beth and Christo and have read a several times and I agree it feels a bit like eavesdropping. ;-)

    Jury duty eh? That could never happen to me as we don't have juries in my country, well not in court.

    Have a fun weekend Carol!

  7. I get inspiration for my garden many ways. Traveling to places that have different climates and habitats for wildlife. Reading books and magazines. Visiting gardens everywhere. Sculpture has made me think about lines of a border.

    I always think it is amazing when I am lying in bed about to go to sleep and BOING an idea comes into my mind and I have to get up and sketch or write it down so I can go to sleep. I often wonder "where did that come from?"

  8. My favorite gardening book is 'The Cottage Garden' by Christopher Lloyd and Richard Bird. It is one and only gardening book I own that I paid full price for. (Out of 26) I have worked very hard the last two summers and still have some to go, but my cottage garden is a dream come true.

  9. One of the problems that I have with gardening on a balcony is that I want to have everything in a tiny tiny space. Every year I say this year I'm going to cut down, co-ordinate colours and shapes - and then that means leaving something out and I can't do it. So I'll never end up with a cool, stylish balcony like some do. But I do enjoy my chaos, and that to me, is more important.

    I've just published my Gardener's Bloom Day post. Yes, I know I'm setting a record for lateness but it's been a very hectic month ... I thought I'd go with the spirit of the thing ...

  10. Jury duty was an interesting experience for me but I was glad when it ended. Do you need to report again?

    I get ideas for gardening from magazines as far as the structure. I enjoy more information on blogs like this one. My love of water makes the pond my main focus. Actually, my gardens are nothing but a long range plan in progress.

  11. this time of year I just love to read seed catalogues! I am transported into a world of opportunity and delight! - Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto would come a close second. If you ever get the chance to visit Great Dixter.. you must!

  12. Glad you got out of jury duty, Carol, but it gave you some time to read. I have Beth Chatto's 1989 book The Green Tapestry, which is wonderful. AS with any book published in Great Britain, we have to adjust somewhat for climate, but she's a sensible gardener and cheery writer, so her books are quite useful. Those with shade might enjoy her book on woodland/shade gardening.

  13. Carolyn Gail... So, for Monet, the garden inspired the art, versus art inspiring garden design?

    Blackswamp_Girl... I have Christo's Garden Flowers but will have to look around for a Chatto book.

    Vonlafin... I don't know how it is in your county, but here in the 'big city', who knows what kind of cases need juries!

    Healingmagichands... I think we'd all like a nice "foundation" to use for our gardens, the kind with money!

    Tyra at Vaxholm... Wonderful images, I spent some time looking at them. Fascinting!

    Yolanda Elizabet... Thanks for the endorsement of the book and I hope come January you'll join us with a post for the Garden Bloggers' Book Club.

    Lisa at Greenbow... It is interesting how thoughts come to us sometimes.

    Christine...I'll have to check out that particular book. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Sue Swift... I agree, sometimes the love of the plants gets in the way of garden design.

    Mary... I'm all done with jury duty. Just had to report once.

    Matron... I love to dream over the seed catalogs, too. If I ever do get to England, Great Dixter will be one place I'll definitely visit.

    Jodi... Thanks for the book suggestion. I'll have to check that out.

    Thanks all for the comments and joining in the conversation about where your inspiration for garden design.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  14. I've never been called for jury duty but my husband has.

    My garden inspiration usually comes from seeing pictures of gardens in magazines and gardening books and more recently garden blogs and forums. Sometimes I am inspired by plants I see in the garden centers and nurseries. Sometimes it's just the arrival of spring,and that is all the inspiration I need.


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