Joyful Garden Design

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The Gift Of Creativity

As I’m preparing for the upcoming remodel of my vintage mobile home, there are lots of logistics to juggle. Which comes first, painting or roofing or flooring or kitchen? The order largely depends on the schedules of the lovely people who are helping me; whoever is available first will probably start the process, and each piece will inevitably lead to the next. Or so I hope. Still, I’m trying to make sensible decisions; the new roof can happen anytime, presumably, and it will be idea if we can do the interior painting before the flooring goes in. Oh, and the kitchen should be gutted before that as well, ideally.

All of these decisions will affect our move-in date, which remains unknown and unknowable. In the meantime, I can at least dream into the garden. Though the available space will be small, it’s a lot bigger now that forty years’ worth of overgrown and inappropriate shrubs are being removed. Some of it was pretty impressive; old growth Fatsia pulled down the gutters on one side, and what I thought was a compact shrub turned out to be suckers off a huge trunk that’s going to be challenging to remove, as it’s snugged into the foundation of the deck.

Finding Creative Solutions

Some of my assumptions about what might stay and what could go have changed as I’ve learned more. Initially I thought I’d move the Fatsias to the back for a leafy green screen, but they’re too old. That sets me free to imagine a different screening solution, starting with replacing the elderly, sagging fence with a higher version. There will be room for a sturdy hog-wire frame to support espaliered fruit trees. I’d love to replace the three-way espaliered apple I left behind several houses back, and perhaps train some raspberries up the wire as well. For visual screening, I think I’’ll wrap the tall fir trunk in one corner with chicken wire and thread it with an evergreen Clematis cirrhosa Landsdowne Gem, a fragrant winter bloomer that would enjoy this sheltered spot.

I had also assumed that the (very) old heat pump system was barely functional and planned to replace it, moving the new outside unit to free up space in the little back yard. It turns out that the old equipment works fine but the ducts need replacing; that minor fix would cost about 15% of the bigger one. Hmm. Looks like my back garden will be fitted around the heat pump. For now anyway, I’ll add a box of lattice screening to mask the homely thing without blocking air flow or access for the service folks. I’ll skirt the new fence with crushed gravel, which will also surround the building and deck and serve as a pathway. Whatever’s left will be plantable space, and I’ll tuck in my dear favorite plants wherever they can thrive. Figuring that out will of curse take some tinkering, but that’s the soul of gardening as opposed to landscaping.

What’s Creativity, Anyway?

I was recently invited—challenged?—to give a little talk about creativity. I wrote several versions, which shifted with my thoughts. After all, what is creativity? There are quite a few definitions; some stress imagination or inventiveness or innovation, while others lean more into the unique and original. To my way of thinking, there is far more richness and depth to cultural creativity that assumes and relies on interconnectedness. My own creativity often takes the form of making and mending. As a kid, I was the family member who sewed on buttons, fixed damaged toys, and glued broken cups back together, usually to nobody’s satisfaction. I’m not that good at it, but I love mending, from darning socks to making tired leftovers delicious.

I’m always drawn to the ideas captured in lots of the “re” words; recycling, renewal, renovation, refreshment, restoration, recreation, reimagining, reclaiming… Fun as it is to make something lovely or entertaining from scratch with all new materials, it feels more creative to find ways to make the useless useful or fix the broken. There are also lovely satisfactions in giving something old new life; it’s delightful to fill a garden with plants that remind us of dear friends, or gardens of the past. It’s sweet to use a quilt or children’s clothing made from much-loved hand-me-downs.

(Re)Claiming Our Creativity

I feel sad when people tell me they aren’t creative. It’s easy to confuse creativity with accomplishment, but they aren’t the same. Indeed, talent, skill, and mastery are actually measures for comparison. Creativity isn’t only about painting beautiful pictures or writing best sellers. I’d define creativity as the ability to see past what is to what could be. How might that manifest? Perhaps your strength is in generating ideas, or in finding practical solutions to persistent problems. You may mix a memorable salad or craft a tantalizing cocktail. Maybe you throw parties where friendships are forged because you chose just the right guest list. You might be a baby whisperer who can soothe the wildest child. You may have a gift for making a home welcoming. Maybe you dress with your very own style or bake killer brownies. Maybe you’re a garden artist or a genius at fixing hair. Maybe you bring out the best in people!

Though I’ve enjoyed creativity all my life, it’s also been laced with joy-destroying judgements. Nothing I made or did was ever quite good enough. For me, the gift of turning judgement to joy came through my grandmother and my grandkids. Some 65 years ago, my grandmother, whom I barely knew, made me two soft dolls. Last fall, they showed up in a box, battered and stained. To clean them, the old stuffing had to come out, and while re-sewing them, I found that my grandmother’s stitch holes were still in place. As I slid my needle through those same holes, I felt such a loving connection; my hands moving as her hands had done, with the same intention of making a toy for a beloved grandchild. I also realized that her sewing was as clumsy as mine. Yay! It’s hereditary! More to the point, her imperfect gift delighted me for years, as mine delight my grandkids. Perfect? No. Good enough? Absolutely!


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6 Responses to Joyful Garden Design

  1. Tamara Mitchell says:

    What a bummer that judgments have dampened the joy of creativity for you. Clearly you are a genius with creativity in the garden and in the kitchen. I’m glad you had the stamina to forge ahead despite the nay-sayers. I’m lucky to have always had family that cheered me on even when my efforts fell flat. There was always the encouragement to try again…and that is how we get better at stuff!

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      Well, hmm, in many ways, our upbringing makes us who we are, whether directly or indirectly. I’m so glad that your supportive family encouraged you early and often, that’s how I aim to be for my own kids and grandkids as well as friends who were creatively hampered in youth. In my case, the lack of family support made me rely on my own resources, which expanded as I matured. Maybe it took me longer to get where I am, but here I am all the same. Yay!

  2. Judith says:

    I had never considered myself creative. As I get older I give myself more space for fun and play. Less judging and more wonder. Less rushing and more inquisitiveness. Life is better with a little intentional joy.
    Thank you for your lovely posts Ann. I look forward to them.

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      Hi Judith, Hurray! I’m so glad you’re enjoying your new freedom to explore your own creative pleasure and interests. Our definition of what creativity even is can change radically as we mature and leave old, constricting judgements behind.

  3. Elec Tra says:

    Hi~ I would like to grow a joyful garden. Are there any P Patches or community gardens near 300 High School Road? I’d especially like a raised garden.
    Thanks for your help, Elec Tra

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      Joyful gardens are definitely the best kind! You might check with Eagle Harbor Church, which has some P-Patches (though there’s a waiting list). Maybe as the Parks District if they’d consider adding some in the new Sakai Park by Ordway, like the ones at Battle Point park (those are good ones too!). Good luck!

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