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An Interview with the Garden Writer

…water feature that stays accessible, with at least a portion of the surface unfrozen, even in winter. The power of water to support increased diversity is unmatched in the garden; from dragonflies to amphibians to birds and mammals, the water garden is where the action is. My two in-ground pools were one of the first things I created here, and thanks in large part to them 70ish species of birds visit regularly, for instance.

Tool you can’t live without:

Why over-effort by using a too-big pruner when for most jobs a smaller, lightweight one will do? ARS HP-300LDX stainless steel needle-nose fruit pruners, meant for working in vineyards and orchards, are my hand-saving go-to for most daily chores. I have a pair of lightweight, scaled-down aluminum loppers, too, for making bigger cuts.

Go-to gardening outfit:

My yoga gear from 20 years ago, rubber boots, and un-fancy gloves with nitrile-coated palms and fingers.

Favorite nursery, plant shop, or seed company:

Cannot name just one, but I am a longtime champion of farm-based, organic seed companies—people who grow some or all of the seed they sell, and are happy to tell you who grew the rest, and how. In this age of such terrifying consolidation of the seed industry into the hands of a few giant companies who regard and patent it as intellectual property, these often small “seedkeepers” in the organic movement are where I see hope.

On your wishlist:

Amsonia tabernaemontana. Photograph by Kerry Woods via Flickr.
Above: Amsonia tabernaemontana. Photograph by Kerry Woods via Flickr.

After reading Mt. Cuba Center’s just-published Trial Garden research on all the different native bluestars, or Amsonia, I almost want them all. Beautiful flowers, and graceful foliage with great fall color—plus they are super-tough and long-lived.

In their New Jersey garden, my friends Louis Bauer and Ken Druse use columnar trees really effectively—both conifers and deciduous ones such as European beech—and I’m trying to identify a couple of spots here for such distinctive exclamation points.

Not-to-be-missed public garden/park/botanical garden:

In just 10ish years, the historic estate called Untermyer Gardens Conservancy in Yonkers, NY, has risen from the ashes, thanks to a crew of artistic and energetic horticulturists. Breathtaking. Speaking of transforming historic estates, Stoneleigh in Villanova, PA, is being transformed with a natives-only mission—unusual in such a formal setting, and very exciting.

The REAL reason you garden:

In The Backyard Parables, Margaret writes about why gardening is about so much more than plants.
Above: In The Backyard Parables, Margaret writes about why gardening is about so much more than plants.

I always say that I garden because I cannot help myself. It’s not about outdoor decorating for me (though I do think the yard looks better for the efforts). More powerful, though, I experience the garden as part meditative space, part science lab. It’s a place where I slow down and where my curiosity is constantly aroused—and not just about plants, but birds, moths, lichen, you name it, and how all the pieces of the food chain and the ecosystem fit together.

Thank you, Margaret! Follow her @awaytogarden.

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