PHC, The Garden: Ask ‘Why’ and Watch Inspiration Bloom

Read Part 6 of “Pink House Chronicles – The Garden” here.

“Why” is a word that begs an explanation. Like a seven-year-old.

  • Why do you work all the time? Because …

  • Why is it so hot? Because …

  • Why are you building this garden?

Sometimes we explain things with stories. Think how literature informs us about many of life’s big questions. The words create scenarios in our heads that can explain so much.

I think every garden should tell a story that explains its reason for being. The way it looks – the plants it contains, the arrangement of its spaces – all should be the physical embodiment of the story of the people who live in it (and used to live there). It should express the inherent qualities of its particular site, its opportunities and constraints. And it should reflect, in all of its aspects, the garden’s over-arching inspiration.

Recently, I was asked by a young, would-be designer – what do you use for inspiration? After a moment’s pause I started naming some of the things that have been the jumping off point for some of the gardens I have had the privilege to work on: a client’s collection of bird houses, an existing Japanese maple tree, the Mediterranean style of the house, their tropical holiday that made a lasting impression, the campfires the family loved to gather around on their vacations, a man’s passion for fishing, her interest in dragons, the boggy soil conditions, the historical mining remnants still on site, their little granddaughters who love to put on plays, the color red.

Inspiration informs so many of the decisions you will make. It is the armature upon which everything will hang, holding the design together so that there is a story to see, hear, and touch.

Without a story, an inspiration, or a theme, the garden is just a collection of plants and pavement. A missed opportunity for creating sensible beauty.

Our minds are always searching for pattern and meaning. We look up at a sky scattered randomly with points of light, and fashion from that constellations, complete with stories that our civilization has handed down for thousands of years.

Clever monkeys that we are, we need to remember that not only can we perceive patterns in what we see and create meaning from them, we can also actively MAKE patterns and designs that have real meaning in our own built environment.

So what is Doni’s garden inspiration? We’ll show you, as we continue with PHC – The Garden!

But don’t think we’re done asking questions!

Because design is all about wondering … WHAT IF?

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.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.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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