Walk up the driveway through my garden and you’ll see monarch butterflies patrolling the milkweed; you’ll hear the humming of bumblebees right up to your nose in the wild roses – after all, some people call me “the pollinator lady”. This is the live and let live part of the garden, where apart from occasional weeding, I try to let nature take its course.
More likely, you’ll find me in the vegetable garden. This is where I plan, plot and tend. It is the beating heart of my garden that feeds my family and my soul. When visitors follow me along the crunchy gravel path, they almost always tell me how lucky I am that the plants get so much sun.
But luck has nothing to do with it. We pushed the house to one side when building it so I had room on the south side for raised beds. After living the corporate nomadic life for so long and having to adopt and adapt to other people’s gardens, this was my chance to get it right. Sun, soil, water.
When we lived in England for a while, I was inspired by the walled gardens where growing food was as much an art form as farming. However, it goes back further, to my childhood, to those Peter Rabbit tales. Sure, the rabbits were cute, but I was more in love with the vegetables in Mr. McGregor’s fields, the neat rows of ruffled lettuce, the quaint tools, the terra cotta pots.
Abundant and beautiful, that’s my goal every season. My goal is to use every square inch of land for gardening. Vertical growing keeps a small footprint, so tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, even mini melons and squash climb high. Tight spacing means my soil needs to be overfed – manure, compost, and organic granular fertilizer. It crumbles like a chocolate cake and I never step on it.
The fun part is designing, finding combinations that showcase the beauty of humble vegetables paired with flowers and herbs. Color, texture, shape. Metallic gray broccoli rubs shoulders with the saturated red of “Moulin Rouge” zinnias. Spiky blue-green onions next to dinosaur kale and burnt orange marigolds. Feathery dill and fat cabbage. Everything is a visual feast long before it hits the plate.
Architect: Rehkamp Larson Architects, 2732 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-285-7275, rehkamplarson.com // Manufacturer: BCD Homes, 4457 White Bear Pkwy., Ste. C, White Bear Lake, 651-274-1894, bcdhomes.com // Landscaping: Phillips Garden, 2646 Cedar Ave S., Mpls., 612-721-1221, phillipsgarden.com