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"True planning, creative organic gardening and design, is
an on-location experience…"

hops growing up a trellis


AVANT-GARDENING is a practice of creativity, visualization, and expression, an "Action-Meditation" which can provide a link to the most basic functions that connect us to each other and the source of creativity within us. Creating a garden is an intuitive process derived from our creative abilities which are just waiting to be discovered.

Beauty is the unification of infinite variation that releases us from the bondage of abstraction and the slavery of mathematics. When learned from our own gathered knowledge, we can believe it when we can achieve it. Trust and use the information that comes to you.


WHAT IS AN ASPIRATION? and why do you need one? What should you aspire to? An aspired to plan will allow a certain time period within which progressive results provide an intimate association of direction and continuity.

It is the focal point and plan for your gardening endeavor. To have a successful growing season you will need to make and maintain your level of commitment. In order to grow healthy plants you can use your own resources by applying and maintaining your own compost. You will need to improve the soil and leave it in a better state than it was at the beginning of the season. You will need to maintain the garden as a whole. You will need to establish good garden habits.

You and your garden are part of a system of interrelated events and processes that intertwine and teach you in the moment – a creative process of symbiotic growth and attunement. To carry your garden to fruition is an attainment/enjoyment/creation/appreciation/validation of your aspirations.


PLAN AND PLANT the garden so it will be a pleasure to work in and to view. An organic garden is not a part of nature – it is created artificially and is a work of art. Preparation is as important as routine maintenance.

STYLE is as recognizable in a garden as it is in architecture. Individuality is as predominate in a garden as it is in personality. One can make use of the natural components and processes to form a picture of harmony and unity of garden design.

THE RELATIONSHIP of textures, colors, forms and sizes of plants can all be used to create your garden’s aesthetic and utilitarian functions. Considering the relationship of individual plants and plant groups to the overall design will create plant communities that will respond to the beauty created by your planning.

AESTHETICS - when surrounded by beauty plants will respond to the garden’s aesthetics – and we can notice it visually in the overall health of the plants. The whole becomes greater than the sum of all its parts. A garden can become a sanctuary of reminders that we also are part of a larger design.

INTUITION - self-preservation - is a reflex action that tries to keep us alive. The garden is one direct path to this part of our body and mind. Knowing that our food is growing and will be consumed can soothe this reflex and allow it to participate in joining other energies that help stimulate new ideas that promote security.

UNDERSTANDING - These new ideas arrive through understanding and the spontaneous association of coordinated acquired knowledge. Accumulative learning is consistent and goal oriented. The garden and its ever-changing environment provide an arena for the development and use of quick reasoning, rapid judgment and prompt decisions.

chamomile growing in front of the garden pond


JUST AS WE CHOOSE which designs we use, we choose to grow and change our character traits. If we have the COURAGE to implement the steps necessary, we steadily gain a protective self-consciousness. This self-consciousness/confidence is the result of being enlightened by facts and inspired by truths.

FACTS AND TRUTHS that can be observed and experienced become a most acceptable way of life even, if for only a few minutes a day in the garden, and reinforce courageous decisions that often go against societal norms set by advertising and culture assuring us they know what we need to do.

FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE grows understanding into KNOWLEDGE - trial and error is data joined from and for a useful and progressive path of growth, first in the personal arena and then overflowing into other aspect of life. Knowledge allows for greater diversity of action to obtain a desired end goal.

Lewis H. Lapham, an editor for Harper's Magazine wrote, "Knowledge becomes a matter of instantly recognizing patterns rather than an act of sequential thought." The understanding of one fertilizer grows to the knowledge of the varieties of fertilizers available and how each can be used. This can help us realize there is often more than one solution for many of our problems.

WHAT WE DO with our knowledge depends on wise COUNSEL - both inner and outer. Social counsel is social development that harmonizes the garden within to the garden outside. Sharing a physical aspect of your inner vision can help promote social harmony; sharing food with neighbors, donating to food banks, attending farmer's markets where you will be able to meet many people with whom you would not have had contact. First hand discovery of the reliable reality responses of the universe allow us a place and vision to observe and participate in purposive preparation.

A growing sense of awe brings us to a WORSHIP or meditative experience: too many times we see or hear of worship in terms of prostration, flagellation, and other forms and actions that appear foreign and out of sync with our feelings. Rather should worship be seen as the act of refreshing, creative, fraternal, and romantic attitudes by the human soul-spirit. If we allow it, worship is self-forgetting effortless attention in contemplation of the spiritual and divinely creative: a looking to the ONE for the inspiration for service to the many.

From the founding INTUITION, UNDERSTANDING, COURAGE, KNOWLEDGE, COUNSEL, AND WORSHIP we approach the apex of human direction: WISDOM.

Wisdom is the orderly and progressive evolutionary advancement of our lives and our gardens. It is the character traits that determine what efforts will be used for our advancement.

Marshall McLuhon said:
"We become what we behold: we shape our tools, and, thereafter our tools shape us."

Reality is not in the mind's eye, but rather in what the eye beholds. To be creative we must make new pictures out of old facts. Adaptability and harmony provide paths in our lives and in our gardens that are able to co-exist with unlimited change.

one of the garden beds ready for harvest


WHY is a garden design necessary? There are many factors to assess and consider in the basic formation of your garden. Start with a preliminary sketch, a beginning application of your inner-garden vision – one than can be changed as needs arise.

VISUALIZATION is the most important step in a project, and a key to creative possibilities. If you see a possibility that is the first step in creating it. When you have your beginning design, then you can transfer your vision into materiality.

GOOD PLANNING AND VISUALIZATION will result in a successful garden, individual progress, and creative pleasure. Creative pleasure is a synaptic experience that starts with an “end-goal focus” – a positive direction. End-goal views are needed to provide direction for all of our aspirations. This results in forward progress.

CREATIVE PLEASURE is a continuing and shared experience promoted by personal involvement. Large-scale show gardens are beautiful in grandeur and expanse, yet hardly can be called personal, having a work force of scores.

It is easy to share an individual or family garden because personality is embedded within it. Everyone’s garden contains that individual’s ideas of how to do things their own unique way. If carefully observed, there is always the opportunity to take away with you “a part of someone else’s garden” that you will be able to use in your special way, (i.e. what they use for mulch, planting spaces, composting techniques, etc.) With new ideas and old experiences we dream and forecast; during the next season we will try and express that which is beyond us: to prove the infinite worth of the finite- to create in time that which is beautiful and endearing.

THE LATIN WORD "FACIL" literally means, “...that can be done, easy.” The modern meaning of facile is to move, act, work, and proceed, with ease, not tension. With each gardening season this “ease” becomes more pronounced, building a relaxed confidence, and direction promoting peace of mind toward the future. We will use facile diligence to progress our personally directed creativity, relaxation, and peace of mind. We will learn and achieve a small portion of truth - and knowing that as a truth-learning individual makes us part of a progressive (upward) and aggressive (onward) universe.

These foundation basics are picked and established by even the most novice grower - if a plant is drooping on a hot day, reason says water it, and judgment and decisiveness say "do it now". A simple example, but foundations are built on simplicity.

pink stock blossoms in the garden


AN OVERALL DESIGN JOURNAL should be made prior to all physical work. True planning is an on-location experience – and possibility visualization is the first step. It should include sketches, hopes, thoughts, ideas, pictures - you’re your attitude toward the garden as a whole, an entity. This will enable you to use it as a benchmark for seeing and directing future potentials, improvements, and progress. Review of the past helps motivate the future.

PLANNING ALLOWS FOR an orderly process of thought and decision, building confidence that will achieve a result that meets your particular need. Some factors contributing to a successful garden include a suitable location, fertile and friable soil, good drainage, the selection of varieties suited to the altitude and climate, correct planting procedures and good cultural practices – fertilization, water conservation, mulching, winter protection, and control of insects and diseases.

PHYSICAL CONSIDERATIONS ARE: soil condition, prevailing wind directions, natural or created windbreaks, and the slope or grade of the land – indicating the need and opportunity for terraces or retaining walls, constructed out of wood, concrete, stone, or brick. Trees may be used for shade or providing windbreaks. Drainage should be considered, diverting water flow with paths and trenches, allowing for removal of surface water before it floods your garden. The sun path is also important – southern exposure for plants is best.

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS such as scent, color, form, line, and texture, form three-dimensional spaces and patterns. Color evokes emotional response. Red, yellow, and orange excite and attract. Blues, greens, pinks, and violets are calming and receding. White gives an impression of unity. Color creates depth by defining and amplifying spatial relationships. Color intensity changes throughout the day, creating variety.

flowers growing among the vegetables



REPETITION (DUPLICATION) gives a thread of continuity. Repeated designs instill order, connection, and an understanding of qualities.

VARIETY (DIVERSITY AND CONTRAST) is created by line, form texture, scent, and color, which holds your attention and creates enjoyment. Contrast can also be created by asymmetry. The key is to balance repetition, and variety, in a unified whole.

BALANCE creates stability, symmetry, and pattern. Pattern is a key in repetition.

EMPHASIS creates a focal point – such as a center trellis – something that immediately catches your eye and holds your interest. The garden entrance is the beginning focal point for your garden. This will be the first garden experience, and like a centerpiece it will set the tone. Since it is the first aesthetic experience it should be made to compliment the entire garden. For accessibility, it is important to remember that the gate is the entry way for all equipment, materials, and harvesting, and should be large enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow.

SEQUENCE suggests movement in a garden – a rhythm that develops from changing line, form, texture, and color - changing the point of focus. Sequence connects them by repetition. Fine or coarse textures and varying heights add contrasting features.

SCALE maintains the relativity of the garden. It is necessary to prevent “bulges” or off balance” areas, that are not appropriate in size to the whole. Scale and harmony reverberate throughout the whole garden. Structures in the garden such as decks, pergolas, trellises, and benches contrast with the plants to create privacy and enclosure. Slopes are ideal for terraces and winding paths.

Reflecting pools or ponds provide a place for quiet meditation and enjoyment of the garden. The placement of large rocks can also add texture and variety, as well as providing planting backdrops. The planting of trees can provide shade, fruit, scents, and blossoms in the spring.

AN OVERALL DESIGN will also allow you to plan the foreground and background as part of the composition choreographing the experience that you desire. Garden beds may be planted in patterns, and a sense of entry can be emphasized with a gate or a trellis. A wall encourages a sense of journey and physical passage. A tree or plant can be a focal point by using its aspects of form, texture, and color.

chamomile by the garden pond

TRELLISES can add a point of interest by creating vertical texture and can be made of wood, metal, or PVC. They provide support for vines, create shade, reduce noise, attract birds, provide support for a birdhouse or bird feeder, wind chimes, or wind sculptures. They may be placed in the garden center, over paths or entrances, or near a pond. Several trellises may be used to form patterns over paths.


POOLS, PONDS, AVIARIES, OUTDOOR WATER FEATURES, and BIRD FEEDERS provide a serene oasis for contemplation, peacefulness, meditation, rest, and revitalization. Outdoor water features always enhance any garden. Outdoor aviaries also lend themselves to a garden setting. If you have a large diameter tree, you could build a large aviary around it. Bird feeding stations will attract all kinds of birds to your yard. Bird Cages can be set outside to attract other birds during the day. Bird baths/water basins will attract more birds than a feeder, especially the insect eaters who will help with any pest problems. A small pond, or a reflecting pool, will add a dimension that can enrich the entire plant growing experience as well as inviting frogs, toads, and birds into the garden area, which will also help with pest reduction.

YouTube: watch how a small pond and a bird feeder has been artfully incorporated into a garden setting

If a pond has shallow sloping sides, birds can bathe along the edges. Other sounds can be created with a pond fountain or waterfall, using a simple and inexpensive re-circulating pump. This pump can be attached to a filter to keep the water clear, and fish can be added to the pond for interest and mosquito control. The pond can be lit underwater for added interest. Pond lilies and other plants can be added to provide shade for the fish and aerate the water.


GRADE – which will determine the water level of your pond
DEPTH which should be at least four feet if you add fish, liners – cement, rubber, or plastic, maintenance
EASE OF CLEANING - including a drain, easy access, and smooth sides
ALGAE PREVENTION AND AERATION – which can be controlled keeping the pH between 6 and 7 and by using fountains and waterfalls

AROUND THE POND you can complement the water feeling with tall grasses that appear as sprays or fountains. Keep the pond skimmed so the floating material does not sink and form bottom waste and scum.


GARDEN LIGHTING dramatizes the beauty of the garden and highlights points of interest - bringing out the texture and pattern of foliage silhouetted against the darkness. If you have electricity or solar lights, they will highlight points of interest within your garden setting.

TREES are not often thought of as an addition to a garden – although they can be a powerful element in garden landscaping. Trees are usually eliminated from the garden site to provide maximum sun. In a hot climate, planting a few fruit or shade trees adds shaded areas for plants needing summer sun protection during the hottest days. Trees can help to change the wind patterns in your garden, aiding in the prevention of molds.

They provide pleasing sounds and changes during the year - as the first green leaves appear, buds form, and finally the leaves turn color and fall - returning the look at the beginning of the garden season. They may create pollens or scents that attract beneficial birds and insects that will in turn provide pollination and pest control. Fruit trees will yield their fruit providing an expectancy beyond that which is planted in the ground.

DIFFERENT VARIETIES of trees, whether fruit or decorative, deciduous or evergreen, have different textures - a result of the size and distribution of their leaves. Consider if you want blossoms in the spring, ornamental fruit in the fall, autumnal leaf color, fruit, or pleasing growth habits in the winter.

Take into account their eventual dimensions to prevent problems later on. To maintain scale, trees must be carefully pruned to the direction and size desired; they can also be espaliered or trellised. Tree varieties grow at different rates and you may need to find out the approximate rate of growth for the area in which it is to grow.

flowers growing with vegetables in the garden

"I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green."

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Home Page    About Us    Mossy Knoll Garden/San Juan Island    Botany Basics    "You Can Grow!" Workshops    Composting    Soil Building
Hardiness Zone Map   WebRings    "You Can Grow" CD's   "Tid-Bytes" Insights   Garden Pests & Organic Controls
Biodiversity and Genetic Engineering    New Mexico    Companion & Intensive Planting     Permaculture    Labyrinths
Seed Starting Guide    Creative Garden Design    The Greenzbox    Culinary Herb Gardens    Xeriscape
"Growing with the Seasons"    Photo Tour I    Photo Tour II    Photo Tour III    Photo Tour IV    Photo Tour V
Organic Products    Gardening Books   Gardening Supplies     Recommend This Site    Resources

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