There’s a longstanding, wonderful, well-documented affair between writers and gardens. Oftentimes, it’s the gardener writing about his or her own garden and experience, sharing knowledge, joy, and goodwill. There are many wonderful, inspiring, and often hilarious books written by gardeners. But even with the most prosaic how-to gardening book, there is a strong, inherent undercurrent of passion.
Then we have the reverse. Through history, there have been countless writers – novelists, historians, poets – who not only looked to gardens for inspiration, but gardened themselves. To name a few are Beatrix Potter, Emily Dickinson, Ronald Dahl, Leonard and Virginia Woolf, all of whose gardens are now open to the public.
Eleanor Perenyi (1918-2009), author, editor, gardener, wrote a collection of essays about gardening that was published in 1981. Her book, Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, is now a beloved classic. I’ve decided to borrow part of her title for a series of posts about writers and their gardens. I will cover great writers of the past as well as some of today’s wonderful writers. For my first post, I am proud to introduce Vonda Sinclair, novelist and gardener par excellence.
Welcome, Vonda. We are ready and eager for a tour!
I call this the secret bench because it's difficult to see in the shadow of this huge 'Limelight' Hydrangea paniculata (not yet in bloom). I can see this small vignette outside my living room window. I wanted something pretty to look at there. I planted variegated hostas and ferns on either side of the bench. Beside that is raspberry pink hydrangea macrophylla 'Summer Crush', Heucherella 'Sweet Tea', Arborvitae fern (Selaginella pellascens), a prehistoric plant. The pink bloom in the foreground is Invincibelle Mini Mauvette® Hydrangea arborescens. A small stream runs behind the bench. It's a nice shady spot to sit and rest. I love benches in the garden and plan to add more.
Hi, Anastasia. Thanks so much!
I live in the beautiful North Carolina countryside, close to nature and the woods. I welcome wildlife into my garden (but I hope no bears or copperheads show up.) lol As I was growing up, my mom grew lots of flowers and vegetables, and she still does. I started gardening here on these few acres more than 30 years ago, right after I got married. My late husband built some stone walls, a pond, and other things. He helped me plant many of the trees and shrubs. I decided to start a remodel on the garden about two years ago because a lot of the plants had either taken over or disappeared during times when I didn't have time to devote to it or wasn't able to garden due to injuries. I noticed that my flowerbed by the mailbox looked best, but I couldn't see it from the house because of the large shrubs and trees. I decided I wanted a beautiful flower garden that I could view from the house and especially from the screened porch I use a lot. I enjoy writing there while I listen to the pond waterfall and fountains.
I've had this pond for around 20 years and I only grow my favorite pond plants. I've tried most of them and removed them all except for 4 colors of water lilies and variegated Japanese Iris. The iris is beautiful from the time it emerges in spring until frost kills the foliage in fall. It blooms purple in June. The waterlilies provide cover and shade for the goldfish in summer and they bloom off and on all summer. I have dark pink, light pink, white and pale yellow lilies. These are all easy care plants.
My goal in the garden remodel was to have a low-maintenance garden that is pretty in all seasons. I soon realized this would require a lot of thought, planning, and orchestration. And yet, I wanted to follow inspiration and have fun with it. I wanted to explore lots of color combinations and try out plants I hadn't before. Of course, it is also very hard, physically demanding work that I must do myself. I've discovered digging out plants, sometimes large clumps of plants or small trees is great exercise. Physically, I'm stronger than I was before, so it has been good for me in many ways. I find working with nature to be very healing and calming. Plus, looking at beautiful plants makes my soul light up. I don't know why, but plants bring me great joy.
I was surprised at how well this combination turned out. The 'Salmon Beauty' yarrow and 'Cheyenne Spirit' coneflowers will bloom for over a month each but the focal point here, the red Asiatic lilies, only bloomed for a week. Still, they were worth it. Hopefully, next year they will have more buds for a longer succession of blooms.
I believe we each have at least one guardian angel and I decided to create a garden to show this. I wanted the look of it to evoke the feeling of an old European walled garden where a forgotten angel statue is almost hidden under the overgrown shrubs and ivy with flowers.
As I said, I welcome wildlife into the garden. In addition to the goldfish that live in the pond, the water attracts a few different species of frogs and toads. There are turtles, songbirds of all types, snakes, lizards, chipmunks, rabbits, insects, etc. I don't use insecticides on my plants. I garden organically and plant many things specifically for hummingbirds, and I love watching them feed from the flowers. I also love to plant flowers for butterflies and bees.
Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds all love the native coneflowers aka echinacea.
As for the garden makeover, I saw that many new plants or improved varieties have been introduced recently. They bloom longer or have better disease resistance. Some also rebloom. I've been removing problem plants and replacing them with improved varieties that require less work and put on a better show. The fun part is experimentation to see how plants perform and how they look. One example would be two plants I bought at the same time from a local nursery. One came down with a horrible fungal disease and will likely have to be removed, while the other has bloomed for months and has no diseases. The plant in this case that gets the thumbs up is Stachys 'Hummelo'. It was awarded perennial plant of the year 2019 by the Perennial Plant Association. I pay special attention to award-winning plants because they are usually great performers and require less work.
Stachys 'Hummelo' blooms for months in summer. It plays a great supporting role.
Almost any plant that blooms for over a month, stays healthy, and doesn't require constant coddling is one that I will enjoy. I especially love plants with beautiful foliage. And I love evergreens for winter interest. As for a favorite group of plants, I would probably choose hydrangeas, especially the blue mophead type (hydrangea macrophylla). Here in the southeast US, they're not bothered by pests or diseases and they put on a great show for months. They require little care and are easy to grow. I've been collecting a few more varieties to try. My soil is acidic and fortunately hydrangea macrophylla love that and turn blue as a result.
My favorite plant... blue mophead or bigleaf (hydrangea macrophylla)
My favorite garden style would be cottage garden or English country garden. I enjoy watching English gardening shows and find them inspiring. I love the romantic look of ancient, moss-covered stone walls and weathered statues, as well as arbors or gazebos enshrouded with roses and clematis. I find benches tucked away in hidden corners to be charming. I'm not sure if lots of writers also like to garden, but for me both are creative outlets or ways I can express myself. The palate being either plants or words to create a form of art. The feeling of inspiration in either writing or garden creation is wonderful.
In May, the roses, alliums, and purple dame's rocket put on a great show. These are my favorite colors.
I write Scottish historical romance and have traveled to Scotland seven times, I think. My favorite things to explore there are castles and many of them have stunning gardens. Scotland usually has a temperate climate, thanks to the Gulf Stream. The country also receives lots of rain, which many plants love. Some of the amazing gardens I've visited in Scotland are those at the castles of Dunvegan, Dunrobin, Inveraray, Crathes, etc. as well as Inverewe Gardens. Scotland's natural flora and scenery is most beautiful of all. Nothing can top the heather-covered Highlands and moors or the prickly yellow gorse blooming along the edges of dark lochs. I try to include as much of Scotland's scenery as possible in my stories. In my newest release, Highlander Besieged, the heroine is especially fond of growing roses. ;)
'Pomponella Fairy Tale' rose in front of the bird house. I put the bird house up as a focal point for the flower garden.
Vonda, thank you for the fabulous tour. There are a few plants I'm going to have to check out for my own garden, and I look forward to reading Highlander Besieged.
Amazon Author Page:
Newest release, Highlander Besieged
Keep me away from the wisdom that does not cry, the philosophy that does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children. – Gibran Khalil Gibran