Pink House Chronicles – The Garden: What Verbs Do for Design

Read Part 2 of “Pink House Chronicles – The Garden” here.

So, exactly WHAT do you want to do in your garden? Obviously this relates closely to the Who part (see previous post). But it goes further. Think in terms of verbs. Remember Miss Reese in fifth grade English class? She told us that verbs are words that convey action (bring, read, walk, run, learn), or a state of being.

Over the thirty years I have been involved with landscape design, I have come to the conclusion that just about anything you can do INSIDE your house, can also be done OUTSIDE in your garden. You just have to plan for it.

Entertain, sleep, read, swim, exercise, do yoga, meditate, watch the stars, play music, play bridge, build miniature railroads, grow food, eat food, throw food. Anything goes. But each activity (verb!) comes with certain requirements. If you’re a star gazer and like to sit out and watch the Perseid meteor showers each year, we can’t be putting big trees in the northeast part of your yard, or we’ll obscure your view of this astronomical event.

The key is to keep asking more questions, drilling deeper, to quantify exactly what you need. Doni’s design program has lots of verbs. They include the usual things people like to do outside – entertain, relax, swim. She also wants to cook in her garden. Well, lots of us grill burgers – what’s the big deal? No, no, Doni wants to prepare many things, not just burnt offerings. And she has a large convection wall oven that she’s been hauling around for years, and she’s decided that now is the time to let it fulfill its true mission. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to cook all those pies and soufflés and turkeys OUTSIDE instead of INSIDE, making the whole house hot?

So we’re thinking about a weather-proofed “cooking cupboard” in the side courtyard, where the built-in oven and other appropriate kitchen paraphernalia can be housed and enjoyed in a setting designed specifically for her kind of cooking. We will look at how big the oven is and how much space we need to have for counters, etc. The materials to build this will be coordinated with the courtyard’s theme, which will be determined as we complete our design program. We’ll put culinary herbs close by in raised planters, and – oh look – let’s use the old bathtub for an ice bucket!

Now, some people aren’t the outdoorsy type. The main verb in their garden vocabulary is LOOK. They don’t grill much. Their neighbors are loud and obnoxious. Going outside makes them sweaty, or sneezy. They mostly enjoy their garden from inside, looking out. It is immanently possible to lay out a beautiful garden so that its main viewing perspective is toward door openings or key windows, like at breakfast nooks or living rooms.

My dentist, Dr. James Crummett, has designed his treatment rooms so that each chair has a full wall of windows overlooking the lovely, but narrow, side garden. No patios out there, but it’s filled with Japanese maples (whose form and leaves are a delight in all seasons), flowering shrubs, and busy bird feeders. What a welcome distraction for us white-knuckled viewers inside!

All of us are lookers, with windows and doors that can help organize our garden layout. Fortunately, the Pink House has lots of great openings, with a large bank of windows and a new glass door on the side courtyard wall facing east. Doni has also added major fenestration on her back wall overlooking the pool garden area. We will definitely take into account the views they offer as we create a plan.

Look for our next question –  Where? in an upcoming installment of this series, PHC – The Garden.

Karen McGrath is a professional garden designer working out of Redding in the foothills of north central California. Her mission is to bring people outside, which she accomplishes by designing custom-fitted, outdoor spaces for their homes. She also volunteers her time and expertise at the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Redding CA. Reach Karen via email at kmcgrath@charter.net, or at (530) 222-4277. Check out her website at karenmcgrathdesign.com.

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is a professional garden designer working out of Redding in the foothills of north central California. Her mission is to bring people outside, which she accomplishes by designing custom-fitted, outdoor spaces for their homes. She also volunteers her time and expertise at the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Redding CA. Reach her at kmcgrath@charter.net or at (530) 222-4277. Visit her website at karenmcgrathdesign.com.
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1 Response

  1. pmarshall says:

    I Imagine Doni has a nice flat lot which should be very conducive for entertaining. We have a great yard, and it has everything imaginable, but it is sort of downhill, and we would need a special device for sending our food down without going up and down stairs. It's also on the south side which means it's either too hot or too cold. Don'is y ard sounds wonderful (to be).

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