Garden Design Elements: Hortiful

Not for me are those minimalist gardens, with hardscapes occasionally punctuated with a plant or two. I want my gardens to be full of plants.

I want to be able to walk amongst the flowers in my garden and find bouquets of blooms ready to be cut.

I want to go out to the vegetable garden and find enough fresh produce to make a summer evening’s supper.

I want to walk down the path and be able to reach out and touch the plants as I walk along.

I want to smell the sweet scent of ripening grapes and pick apples that are as crisp as an autumn morning.

If I have all this, I have the fifth garden design element in my garden, summed up in one word – hortiful.

(Yes, I did. I came up with another word not in the dictionary. After coming up with the other four non-dictionary words to describe the other garden design elements, I felt the pressure to do it. Fortunately, “hortiful” came to me when I was thinking of something totally unrelated to gardening. And yes, I do understand that regular readers are pausing right now at the very idea that I had a thought not related to gardening. Or did I? Because I did happen to think of the word “hortiful” when I wasn’t consciously thinking of gardening. But I digress…)

When I tell someone I’m looking for a hortiful garden, I should clarify that I’m not really looking for a jungle with tangles of branches and an understory that requires you to hack it all back with a machete just to get through it.

I’m simply looking for an abundance of plants, well-placed, that I can know and love.

I want to know each plant in my garden and I’m not afraid to have a large variety of plants. In fact I would prefer that! I want to be able to experiment a bit, to feel free to buy a new plant or two or three and have a place for it in the garden.

I don’t want to worry about seedlings that show up or if a plant or two disappears on me, as they are sometimes prone to do. I understand that a garden is always changing, that it is a living entity. It won’t be the same year to year, seasons to season, day to day, or even hour to hour. It will never be finished, at least for me. I’m a gardener. I know I’ll always be planting, pruning, digging, and replacing plants, within the framework of the garden design. I’m fine with all of that, because that’s part of having a garden full of plants, a garden that is hortiful.

That’s what the garden design element “hortiful” means to me.


  1. I know what you mean and love gardens that have plants semi-covering the paths and lawns, but I also love the minimalist look. Here we have no choice and have the sun-baked, poor soil Mediterranean look!

  2. Dear Carol, I do know exactly what you mean and can relate to this too. However, I think that different people want and need different things from their garden and not everyone wants the work involved with a garden which has masses of plants to tend.

    Although I would not want it for myself, I can see the appeal of a very pared down look which can be not only attractive but peaceful and calming too.

    Your designer has certainly got a lot to do in meeting all these requirements!

  3. You have articulated the concept so well. I look at garden as an outlet to pour out creative energy and see how plants react. Generally plants are very receptive.... ~bangchik

  4. I'm really enjoying all these posts, Carol; you're articulating so well all the qualities that we all would like in our garden. I have a feeling you already have most of these in your garden, even before the designer makes her suggestions.

    BTW, the Boilers are impressive this year. The Illini were on their best game Saturday and still lost:) Hope Purdue makes it to the Final Four!

  5. Hortiful is definitely better than the plain stone landscapes you compare it to! I think in some ways this idea is the difference between landscapers (not designers) and gardeners. Gardeners collect to fill their garden full of plants.

  6. I've really enjoyed these posts, Purdue fan or not (sorry, I'm an IU gal). I think you're eloquent and have a wonderful approach to the garden. Keep up the excellent work!

  7. Hortiful - I love it! Such an apt description of a gardener's garden (Dave's distinction between landscapes and gardens is dead-on - landscape designers don't generally create 'hortiful' gardens).

  8. I appreciate the way that you describe the gardening for bounty feeling. I love the soil but I hate to see it for very long. Plants are like people and friends - its great to have many of them and lots of diversity, but its best when the all have their place.

  9. I want my garden to be lush and full, filled with life and the joy of production. I am enjoying your posts on design elements. How could I not have discovered your blog till just the last few days? I'm glad I found you! I look forward to seeing your garden as it grows this year.

  10. Me too! I love to pack plants full in perennials beds... less is not more when it comes to flowers or succulents.

  11. I also want a hortful garden. I feel a bit underwhelmed in landscaped spaces. Give me a garden anyday where one communes with the beings in it, eats from their bounty, smells them, touches them, and can meet their many visitors personally (bees, insects, birds, wildlife), where one can lean down to whisper sweet nothings to the individual plants. Well put!

  12. I enjoy visiting spare gardens with empty spaces, Carol - and like to see them in photos. I also like to go on house tours and see photos of modern, minimalist houses. But it wouldn't work as a personal environment, so my own garden leans to the hortiful side, too.

    How could Hortense Hoelove Have any Happiness unless in a Hortiful Home garden?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  13. Wow Lady! I think you nailed all five things! At least for me...I love a garden full of plants, its like a big wall with only ONE picture on looks empty without all those pictures of kids and family. My garden is the same way, i want it FULL of plants! I don't care if they are coordinating colors or if there is only one of a certain plant, that is the fun, mixing it up! My husband is one of those minimalist people with the one picture on the wall, btw, but he blessedly stays out of my gardens!

    Great Set of Posts!

  14. I think Hortense Hortlove should begin signing her posts "Hortifully yours"!

  15. It is hard to form the ideas for a comment after hearing that you have non-gardening thoughts, ever! Your hortiful design element is most essential. We hope someday to walk the path to garden nirvana with you. :-)


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