You’ll find my garden, Hackberry Point, near Chestertown, Maryland, which is located roughly due east of Baltimore as the crow (or gull) flies over the Chesapeake Bay. Any time of year, a quick look around confirms a serious gardening fanatic and plant collector lives here. In addition to beds in both sun and shade filled with perennials, shrubs, herbs, and other plants, loads of houseplants, outdoor containers, and garden ornaments fill every nook and cranny.
I primarily garden on about 2 acres, plus we also have a 7-acre woods. Since the previous owners spent 30 years maintaining the property with lawn mowers and string trimmers, getting rid of lawn grass, dealing with invasives, and improving mediocre soil are themes I deal with daily. Winds off the Bay and our location in Zone 7 add the gardening challenges of wind and heat to the mix.
I’m interested in all things green, from perennials and herbs to collections of variegated succulents. In addition to gardening, I’m also interested in birds and wildlife, so my garden features plenty of native plants, flowers for butterflies and hummingbirds, plus a wildflower meadow. Beds and borders in the garden combine native and non-native perennials, shrubs, herbs, annuals, and more.
Houseplants, acquired in First Grade, were the first plants I owned and tended, but for as long as I can remember, I also helped my mother with her garden in Columbus, Ohio. Her garden also served as my introduction to tough gardening conditions, since it was in partial shade to shade and boasted alkaline clay soil.
I have been lucky enough to spend my career writing about gardening, first as Publications Director at the American Horticultural Society (AHS), and editor of American Horticulturist, now The American Gardener. After that, I worked as Managing Editor of Garden Books at Rodale Press. Finally, I have been a freelance writer and editor for over 12 years now. (Just to be official, also I have a degree in Horticulture from The Ohio State University and a B.A. from Kenyon College with a major in Fine Art.)
While writing about gardening helps pay the bills, keeping my hands in the dirt is what really matters to me. Nothing gives me as much satisfaction and joy as planting new treasures, creating new gardens, and fussing with plants. (Gardening is a verb to me. I love the process, not just the end result!) My first garden was in Alexandria, Virginia, where I grew mixed plantings around a 1930-era duplex. Next, my husband, Peter, and I moved to Berks County, Pennsylvania, to live in a 240-year-old stone farmhouse that I surrounded with a large perennial garden. We finally settled here on the Eastern Shore in 2004, where I once again began to root out lawn, make garden beds, and fill them with plants.
My current garden at Hackberry Point contains plants that moved with us from Pennsylvania, plus loads of newer acquisitions. The garden here wasn’t really started until 2007, because the house had to undergo a much-needed renovation. (It’s now “green” and features recycled materials, passive solar, etc.) Most of the plants that have been languishing in holding beds are now in permanent spots, and I am steadily expanding the number of planting beds. I’m also trying to reduce runoff, replace lawn grass with ground covers, and add more native perennials and shrubs to make the garden more Chesapeake Bay friendly.
I’m an equal-opportunity plant nut, so I’m constantly experimenting with both native and non-native species, trying out new plant combinations, and simply stuffing as many plants into the garden as I can find room for. A cottagy garden is the end result of all this experimentation. I use up nearly all of my detail orientation editing and writing books, so instead of using paper and pencil to plan out gardening beds, I “plan” primarily by wandering around with a plant in one hand and a trowel in the other. I do think hard about giving each new plant the right growing conditions and suitable neighbors, so the process isn’t as chaotic as it might sound, but more on that in my blog posts. Because I am always trying to find space for just one more plant, my beds change all the time as plants come in and out of bloom. The resulting sequences of bloom are especially fascinating, and I hope to show many of them in future blog posts.