Walk up the driveway through my garden and you’ll see monarch butterflies patrolling the milkweed; you’ll hear the hum of bumblebees nose-deep in the wild roses—after all, some people call me “the pollinator lady.” That’s the live-and-let-live part of the garden, where other than an occasional weeding, I try to let nature do her thing.
More likely, you’ll find me in the kitchen garden. It’s where I plan and plot and tend. It’s the beating heart of my garden that feeds my family and my soul. When visitors follow me along the crunchy gravel path, almost always they tell me how fortunate I am the plants get so much sun.
But luck has nothing to do with it. We pushed the house over to one side when building it so that I’d have plenty of room on the south side for raised beds. After living the corporate nomad life for so long and having to adopt and adapt to other peoples’ gardens, this was my chance to get it right. Sunlight, soil, water.
When we lived in England for a while, I was inspired by the walled gardens where growing food was just as much art form as agriculture. It goes back farther, though, to my childhood, to those Peter Rabbit tales. Sure, the bunnies were cute, yet I was more enamored with the vegetables in Mr. McGregor’s fields, the tidy rows of ruffled lettuce, the quaint tools, the terra-cotta pots.
Bountiful and beautiful, that’s my goal every season. I aim to use every square inch of gardening real estate. Vertical growing keeps a small footprint, so tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, even mini melons and squash climb high. Tight spacing means my soil has to be supercharged—manure, compost, and organic granular fertilizer. It crumbles like chocolate cake, and I never step on it.
The fun part is designing, finding combinations that highlight the beauty of humble vegetables paired with flowers and herbs. Color, texture, shape. Gunmetal-gray broccoli beside the saturated red of “Moulin Rouge” zinnias. Spiky blue-green onions next to puckered dinosaur kale and burnt-orange marigolds. Feathery dill and fat cabbages. Everything is a visual feast way before it arrives on the plate.
Architect: Rehkamp Larson Architects, 2732 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-285-7275, rehkamplarson.com // Builder: BCD Homes, 4457 White Bear Pkwy., Ste. C, White Bear Lake, 651-274-1894, bcdhomes.com // Landscape design: Phillips Garden, 2646 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls., 612-721-1221, phillipsgarden.com