Creating Your Special Garden

First Garden in 2005 in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The first garden in 2005 (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

There is something special about a garden created by its owner, the passion and love are planted in the soil along with each plant. It’s the sweat equity factor. When a person decides to dig up a spot of land and plant something solely for the purpose of creating beauty, it is the selfless act of love paired with a desire to share and learn that truly speaks to my heart.

When we moved to our country property almost 30 years ago, we had a yard of over 2 acres surrounded by open cow pastures. Other than some multiflora rose and piles of old tires and tractor parts from its former farming years, I had an open palette to work with. I dug in within months.  

Planting herbs in the garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The first garden in 2015 (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Although the house (circa 1940) needed a lot of work and updates, which my husband and I did over the years, it was the yard that called to me, offering a place to start anew, reflect, design, create and fall in love with the land and its surroundings. And I did.

It might be hard to believe when you visit my gardens now, but I started simply – by digging up one section in the back yard along the stream. I gravitated to this spot behind our home, it was secluded with a view of the meadows and bountiful wildlife. Where better to create my first garden sanctuary? And when I say dug, I mean by hand, pulling out deep rooted weeds and swamp grass that took patience and perseverance to completely remove the tangled web of roots. But, determination paid off and I finally had a spot to start creating.

New garden created in 2007 in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A new garden created in 2007 (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Yet, even as I dug and before I even started to plant, I was learning. Like the curious pheasant that wandered across the field to observe my endeavors, I learned that nature was all around me, anxious to greet me and share its wealth of knowledge. I realized that digging in the dirt wasn’t simply a task that led to an accomplishment, rather the act of digging was an important part of the journey.

The same garden only 5 years later in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The same garden only 5 years later (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

That first garden taught me much of what I learned, from designing to attract nature and using native plants, to considering bloom times and incorporating shrubs to provide contrast and interest, especially in the winter months. Learning through experiments, observation and trial-and-error turned out to be the best teacher I could ever have had.

In the challenging and exhilarating process of searching for and discovering plants to accomplish my various objectives, I pored over hundreds of gardening books and dozens of plant and bulb retail magazines. I attended garden talks and symposiums. I visited every public garden within driving range, and when invited to a friend’s garden, I followed them around taking in every bit of information they were willing to share. I noted their favorite plants and the ones that performed best and worst. But, if they had a plant that I loved, even if it was purported to be a ‘trouble maker,’ indeed I had to try it for myself! Part of what makes gardening fun and rewarding is trying new things – experimenting – because when you’re successful, you’re over the moon!


A Lawn Garden installed in 2006 in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A Lawn Garden installed in 2006 (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Through the years I have carved out more and more spots for gardens. I have spent countless hours researching plants, trees and shrubs that would provide seasons of interest without too much maintenance. The latter is most important as I am still the only person maintaining my gardens and need to be smart with my time. I discovered that plants, trees and shrubs with interesting foliage, whether it be color, variegation or simply shape, to trees with attractive bark or hunky architecture and shrubs with fall foliage, berries and fragrant blooms, were relevant to creating a garden that is engaging all year long. You can read the hundreds of posts I’ve written about beautiful plants and stunning design to help you fulfill your goals (and I hope you will), but I can’t stress how inspirational it is to also go out and discover your own favorite plants by visiting local gardens and retail garden centers.

Cotoneaster Tom Thumb's Fall Color in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Lawn garden in fall of 2015 (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

My best advice is to never allow yourself to become discouraged in this process, and don’t compare your gardens to those of others. Remember the reasons you chose to create your own space, personalized to your tastes. It will never be like anyone else’s, nor should it be!

Just as my gardens are a reflection of my taste and desire to harmonize my property with the surrounding landscape, your garden(s) may be something quite different. Bold colors, statuary, water features, wild meadows, spectacular patio or roof gardens, or a few simple containers on a porch – the choices are limitless, but they are your choices. Whatever you decide, it is your garden, your space to unwind, reflect and enjoy. And it will always be special because it is uniquely yours. ♥

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A Garden for All