Cool colors, shapes and shadows in my front door flower garden--January 2010

When we first moved to this house in the early 80s, I had a book about English cottage gardens under my arm, and a burning desire to grow flowers. 

Looking back, I think I had the equation reversed–sort of like starting with throw pillows when you’re decorating a room.   But I also think a lot of gardeners start in this place.  And that’s ok.  The important thing is jumping in, getting your hands dirty, learning from your mistakes (always the best lessons). 

I jumped in by planting the small  plot between my two front walks.  

It was good to start small, good to start near the house in a highly visible spot, but hard to hide my mistakes.  And I made a lot of them.  Bad soil and killer drainage had to be fixed.  And, of course, a lot of the English flowers couldn’t take our southern heat.   Still, I had some success.  I grew some beautiful flowers.  At moments, my little garden was lovely.  And at other times,  like November-May, it was just a muddy patch of soil.   

That’s how I discovered the concept of structure.  You can’t just grow flowers–you have to think about leaves and interesting bark, shapes, and colors  to carry you though the winter. 

So I compromised.  I gave up  some flower space for a few shrubs (they bloom, too), added tall things, small evergreens,  and a funky vintage bird bath–all  to keep my eye interested until spring rolls around. 

Is it prefect?  No.  But it’s a big step in the right direction and valuable lesson–flowers come and go, so plan for all four seasons.

Photos:  Same garden, different angles–Flowers take center stage, May 3, 2009.