1. Involve the visitor It doesn't take much to get attention: the plop of falling water; a winding pathway; the inebriating scent of a musk rose, or a funny frog sculpture. Here, in a small walled garden in Wayne, Pa., the pendulous branches of a...
1. Involve the visitor
It doesn't take much to get attention: the plop of falling water; a winding pathway; the inebriating scent of a musk rose, or a funny frog sculpture. Here, in a small walled garden in Wayne, Pa., the pendulous branches of a weeping tree surround a visitor up close with blossoms in the spring, cooling foliage and shade in the summer, and bare wiry branches in the winter.
2. A sense of place
The authentic garden is "true to a place, a time and a culture."
It embraces what's special about its location, whether at the lakeshore or in the mountains. It celebrates its heritage, whether industrial or rural. And it reflects its essence, whether hilly expanse in the country or walled postage stamp in the city's core.
Sawyers suggests we cultivate "a sense of the wild" by allowing natural processes to shape our gardens. Instead of planting in rigidly symmetrical rows and boxes, for example, let certain annuals like cleome self-sow.
"We need to let go of being control freaks," Sawyers says. "Relax. Let the plants do their thing."
Other stuff, too. Instead of compulsively removing trees or shrubs at the first sign of imperfection, celebrate that rotting stump, those crispy seed pods.
If we resist change and edit loss out of the garden, Sawyers says, "We'll never see how beautiful the natural aging process and cycle of seasons can be."
Gardens shouldn't be about conquering and remaking nature, anyway. And they shouldn't be like strip shopping centers plunked down in Anywhere, U.S.A.
"As individualistic as Americans are," Sawyers says, "we want to fit in with our neighbors. We wind up taking away what's special."
3. Use humble materials
This is where "wabi" and "sabi" come in, the Japanese concepts that translate roughly as simple elegance and gaining beauty with age. (Not a problem for most of us, who aren't millionaires and can't do a thing about our patinas.)
The idea is easily applied to the garden, which in Sawyers' view "should have more in common with the family room or den of a house than with the formal living room."
Leave behind the oversized and showy. Choose simple, indigenous materials: sticks, branches, logs, stones, clamshells. Sawyers likes to plant on ruins and recycle millstones, curbstones and railroad ties, even bowling balls and rusted tools.
And unless you wish Sawyers to faint dead away, don't paint any of them.
4. Marry the Outside to the inside
One way to do this is to install lots of windows, a deck or a screened-in porch. Being in the garden, whether literally or figuratively, is good for mental and physical health. And what scenery along the way!
At her 1915 bungalow, Sawyers has a gracious front porch with a swing that's hidden from the road. There, she enjoys the hummingbirds, robins and cardinals.
Out back, she has a little sitting area. "Dinners are a delight out there in summer," she says.
The delight factor has a cerebral side, too. It helps address what Sawyers calls "the disconnect with nature that exists in our society on a rather profound level."
5. Beauty from function
Who thinks about aesthetics when they need a hose or a compost bin? Sawyers does, and suggests that fences, walls, furniture -- even clotheslines and mailboxes -- should all add artistry to the garden while blending harmoniously into it.
And when you're not chilling on the patio or grilling a steak, that chair, that grill, should give pleasure to the viewer anyway.
"Ask yourself, when you're buying or building one of these things, 'Can I make it artful?' "