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My Sister's Garden

It is official; three more family members have been bitten by the garden bug. My sister, Elizabeth, who lives in a lovely Tudor-style house, dabbled in gardening here and there last year, but with two little ones in tow—Jack, 3, and Molly, 1, at the time, getting a lot accomplished in the yard was quite the chore. This summer the kids are at the perfect age to get out and get their hands dirty.


They are the smartest kids ever (not that I am biased!), and when they see any of us doing or talking about something with excitement and passion, they want to know all about it and partake in the fun. As you can imagine, when their mom started ripping out ivy, moving plants and adding graceful border gardens to the yard, there was no stopping these little gardeners; they had to be a part of the yard makeover.


Elizabeth’s neighborhood recently held a community-wide garden competition, and from what I can tell, this was hard core. Gardens were judged on use of hard- and soft-scapes; varied heights of plants; structure and texture of plants; design layout of the garden; and overall color palette (not just a lot of colors!). Just before the judging I stopped over to see the garden, and I was amazed at what she had created in such short order. What was once an uninspiring yard with raggedy shrubs and a worn-out lawn was lush, cool and inviting. Her garden reminded me of the gardens of Savannah and Charleston. Here was the perfect example of how you can positively impact the senses and create a serene environment within a small space.


An artist by training, Elizabeth used her artist’s sensibility to create flow within an angular space. Her garden has texture, movement and a calmness created by a minimalistic color palette. The front porch is now a perfect place to sip coffee and watch the kids play. I knew she had a winning garden design, but would the judges acknowledge her talent or award the prizes to the more established gardeners in the neighborhood? Would they see the tiny, muddy hand prints on the porch posts as a negative or a sign that this was a family-made garden? And that is the best part about this garden— it was made by mom with a lot of "help" from Jack and Molly.

Gardening has to be one of the best ways to get kids outside. Jack and Molly are learning a lot about plants, bugs and taking care of a garden, and to them it is all fun. They have pride in their new yard and love telling us that they helped! The best way to learn is hands-on fun, and gardening is about as hands-on as you can get. And as for the judges, they were rather impressed and awarded Elizabeth’s garden first place! Just imagine what she can do her second summer of gardening! 


Photos courtesy of Vicki Ross.

Jenny Koester, AKA The Landless Gardener, is the Garden Blog Editor for Horticulture magazine and the author of The Garden Life.