Margaret Roach’s Way to Garden

– Posted in: Design

I have to say that blogging has brought more surprises to my life than I ever imagined. For instance, I had long enjoyed Margaret Roach’s book, A Way to Garden, and had dreamed, no, fantasized, that I might one day visit it on the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days. Yeah, right. The other side of New York state might as well be the other side of the world, and Purdys don’t travel. That’s a frivolous use of money!

In my review of the Troy-Bilt tiller, I mentioned that I thought we’d have more use for a chipper than a tiller, but that I was going with the majority vote. Margaret responded by offering her little-used chipper, if we’d come and get it. Even with the cost of gas figured in, I reckoned it was a good deal, with the added benefit of getting to meet one of my favorite garden writers and see her garden. (And it just goes to show you can catch any fish if you use the right bait.)

When and Where Do You View Your Garden?

Margaret started out the garden tour explaining her overall design philosophy. “I don’t spend much time in the garden,” (What! I thought, somewhat shocked) “…unless I’m working in it. I’m usually viewing the garden from inside the house,” (Oh, right. That’s how it works with me, too) “…so I designed the garden so I have views I can enjoy from every room of the house.”

When she bought the property, the driveway ran from the road straight up the hill alongside the house. One of her light bulb moments was realizing the view out the kitchen windows (also seen from the dining room) was of …her car. Very convenient once a week when unloading groceries, and very uninspiring the rest of the time. When she reduced the driveway to a parking area and garage at the bottom of the hill near the road, she gained a better view:
You can view this melange of container plants from the kitchen window(This winter I’ll have to ask her what it’s like carrying groceries uphill after a major snowfall.)

I was going to say hers is a mostly shady garden, but after reviewing my scant collection of photos, I see there are also wide swaths of sunny lawn/meadow/field. The eastern side, close to the house, is full of trees and formed my initial impression. But, sunny or shady, the garden as a whole shares the ethos of the forest: a floral profusion in the spring, a leafy retreat in summer, an explosion of colorful leaves and fruit in the fall, and an emphasis on sculptural structure in winter.

This is a garden that merits thoughtful contemplation, and I’m sorry I didn’t have more time to take it in.

If you want to visit, Margaret’s garden is open every year to help support the Garden Conservancy. Become a member and visit in 2009.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Shady Gardener September 3, 2008, 10:05 am

Kathy, You must have had a wonderful visit! Very inspiring. I love that even YOU had a “lightbulb moment!” 😉 Margaret’s garden, through your photos, is very inspiring. Thanks!

Nicole September 2, 2008, 8:00 pm

I love the entrance view! This is a lovely post and with your chipper added to boot LOL.

mss @ Zanthan Gardens August 31, 2008, 9:18 pm

Well at least Margaret’s garden and mine have one thing in common; both were designed to be viewed from indoors. I can consider that a first step on my part to a more successful garden someday in the future (I hope).

Kathy Purdy August 31, 2008, 9:25 pm

MSS–she also didn’t have drought and temps over a hundred for weeks upon weeks. I’ve been to both gardens and I like the way yours is laid out. The only thing your garden needs to be more successful is a better climate.

TC` August 31, 2008, 2:17 pm

I have the room (3+ acres) to create so many different gardens with different views. Maybe some day when I inherit millions (read: rob a bank) I can attempt it.

wiseacre August 31, 2008, 11:27 am

WOW. Great way to flush out a post. I’m not sure what impressed me more – Margaret’s Gardens or the way you organized the post and filled in each photo with a bonus. My hat is off to both of you and I never take off my hat except at bed time 🙂

Elizabeth August 26, 2008, 9:31 pm

Lucky you – getting to visit Margaret’s garden. Thank you for sharing the pictures – I especially am intrigued with the “foliage Jewels.”

dlyn August 26, 2008, 3:16 pm

Love the photos Kathy – Margaret’s garden is very inspiring.

Margaret August 26, 2008, 2:39 pm

I am just sitting over here wondering who caught who (fish-wise)…you or me?
As for carrying groceries in winter, the old driveway (being in the shade up at the top) might have been a little more level but it was treacherous, with the roof melting onto it at every thaw (I have no gutters) and then the drive re-freezing again and again. Black ice! My stone walk is far enough out from the dripline that I can keep it shoveled and sanded and salted.
And there is always the option to crawl, which every winter reduces me to at some point or other here. Some days it’s just too slippery and you have to crawl to even get the sanding/salting done. Such fun lies ahead!
So glad that you and your husband could visit, and thank you for all the kind words (and bulbs!).

Carol, May Dreams Gardens August 26, 2008, 5:59 am

Sounds like a great trip and a wonderful visit. Thanks for sharing it with us, along with some of Margaret’s gardening philosophy (gardening from the inside out).

Nancy Bond August 25, 2008, 9:24 pm

That’s the sort of garden I dream of — one I can plant and other than the regular feeding and weeding, sit back, let it grow and enjoy the view. 🙂 Sounds wonderful.