Saturday, September 20, 2008

Portland - Day 3: THIS Is What I Came For

The 60th Annual Garden Writers Association symposium started in earnest today. Right off the bat, Jack Hart, author of A Writer's Coach, The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies That Work, dispensed some sage advice for writers who are getting caught up in the back draft of rapidly changing media markets, technologies and cultural tsunamis that are affecting the profession. I'm new at this and don't think of writing as a way to make a living, but Jack's remarks about adapting and staying nimble are right on the mark for this group. For the sake of brevity, I'll quote his most memorable offering, admonishing the group to really understand what readers want: "People don't want a drill; they want a hole." Garden readers are looking for material that helps them satisfy a need and writers need to deliver.

The first session was just the stuff I came here for. Mary Kate Mackey opened a flood gate of useful information with a 12 point lesson in self-editing that was the first big tool I'm putting in my writer's toolbox. Varying the length of sentences to create rhythm (perfect, I'm a drummer); starting off with a theme statement that becomes the basis of everything that goes into the stew; reading the finished piece aloud to someone; using power-rich verbs.

I want to get to the photos of the afternoon tour, but stick with me.

Figuring out where to be for session two was a struggle. In one room was a presentation on the business of garden coaching - that's what I'm doing with my design practice, so it was tempting to pop in and snag a few ideas. But I came here to learn about writing, so I denied myself that little tidbit and got some great ideas about how to stay organized in the writing biz. Again, much doesn't apply to my situation, and I've taken more than my share of "get your life organized" classes that never get implemented, but I can always hope. Bit by bit, I do make the occasional dent in the clutter that is my work space -- Goodnick's Postulate: The mess expands to cover the horizontal space allowed -- and vaguely remember setting up some kind of filing system inside the metal drawer thingy. We'll see what sticks.

A quick lunch (pretty damn good salad with grilled chicken, pecans, and cranberries, courtesy of the DoubleTree), met a few new folks around the table, and onto a bus for a tour of gardens. The intent was to see eight masterpieces in just over two hours. Close, but no cigar -- I think we hit five. But the gardens we did visit were a wonderful mix of eclectic art, bold plant combinations and just plain silliness.

Stop #1: Lucy and Fred Hardiman's horticultural haven. I knew I'd like this garden when I was greeted at the street by this meticulously executed pebble mosaic.

Much of the Hardiman's effort is generously given to passersby, with imaginative pairings of plants that serve double duty in screening out the street from the inner garden. This paring of variegated Elaeagnus (Silverberry) and golden grass (sorry, I wasn't writing down the names of any plants on this trip, since most have no chance of being added to my SoCal repertoire) resonated with me. Add in the merlot-colored shrub flanking this happy couple and you've captured my heart.

Whimsy: A word I try to avoid, but these suspended glass globes are can't be described any other way.

I've become aware of how people on garden tours tend to walk through a garden looking for pictures to take. I wonder if they actually get a chance to just "be" in the garden.

How cool is this? Colorful ribbons of metal and the dried tops of allium bulbs painted in pastel colors.

On to Darcy Daniels' Bloomtown. She's a landscape designer who used her own simple, small yards as an exercise in fine design. As much as I enjoy seeing stunning planting combinations, what really satisfies me is a thoughtful and beautiful whole-cloth design. Darcy's grand success is how she carved out distinct living spaces within a limited space, then made them sparkle with just the right amount of decoration, suprise, and smart horticulture. The eyecatcher was this Euphorbia cotinifolia (Caribbean Copper Plant) trained in a Japonesque fashion, matched to the perfect slender pot. Love the way it repeats the color on the door trim, too.

At the back of Darcy's property is the neighbor's garage wall. By placing a mirror behind a window frame, the garden appears to continue beyond the fence, increasing the apparent size of the garden. Neat trick.

Last up. Nancy Goldman's garden is a work of art and childlike fun. I'm only posting a couple of pictures, but these metal little girls dresses...

...high heeled shoe succulent planter (there were plenty more)...

...and luscious pink and peach floral combos demonstrate just a smidgen of the excitement of this garden.

Stay tuned. Tomorrow should be fun, too.


Frances said...

Oh Billy, this was the best yet! Writing tips and garden tours too, the word heaven comes to mind. There are so many ideas in these photos, I will go back to them again and again. I wondered how those allium seed head were colored like that. Of course, paint. You are strong willed to avoid the garden coaching lessons too, what a guy! I do believe there is evidence of writing improvement here also, not that you needed it. ;->

ps, we used to live in Orange county, CA (Fullerton)

Rosemary said...

thanks for the tour , some great ideas!

Darcy said...

Hi Billy, great post and thanks for the mention. It was really great to have GWA through the garden yesterday and fun meeting you. I really love sharing my garden with visitors – if your readers are interested in seeing more, come on over to

Aiyana said...

Thanks for the review. Very interesting, and great photos.

ricky said...

Great post! Thanks for nice tips for gardening. All Pictures, you send for us, are very beautiful. I also have a garden in my home. I really love to share my garden with visitors.

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sue said...

Such great texture using commonly available plants (the photo of the elaeagonus and mahonia) Great design. You should visit Steve Sommer up in SLO County (Templeton) He grows much of this material. We can grow it at the coast, too, in the right soils.