Things to Love: Gardening, Part I



I have always been a garden girl. When I was three my grandmother nicknamed me Heidi because I loved to pick flowers and because no one (young friends and perhaps even my grandmother herself) could pronounce my given Turkish name, Hayat. For as long as I can remember, if I didn’t have my nose in a book, it was inside a blossom, or sweet smelling wisteria, or a deep bed of clover. I asked Denise after dinner one night how is it that nature is, well, my nature. Like air, I can’t live without it. Her answer was because it makes you human. Perhaps that is why gardening has been a preoccupation of our world for thousands of years.

“The accepted theory is that the water necessary for irrigation was the basis of all early gardens through Persia and the deserts of Asia and the Middle East, and that the cruciform canals, the four rivers of Paradise, derived from the logical exigencies of irrigation.” Russell Page, The Education of a Gardener, Random House, 1983, 2nd Edition.

Controlling water could be said then to have been the impetus for gardening - but it became something more.

 “And yet what makes gardening in all its forms so richly satisfying is the way that, out of the constant conflict of man’s desire to control and order his words and the inherent uncontrollability of the natural world around him, comes a genuine creative expression. Making a garden has always been one of the grandest and yet most available of all art forms.” From Garden Mania, Philip de bay and James Bolton, Clarkson Potter, 2000.

Think about Monet, Renoir, the great Impressionists, and their paintings of gardens. Not to mention gardens in poetry and literature, think Proust (my hero) and his remembrance of the hawthorn hedge in Combray.

“I found the whole path throbbing with the fragrance of hawthorn-blossom. The hedge resembled a series of chapels, whose walls were no longer visible under the mountains of flowers that were heaped upon their altars; while underneath, the sun cast a square of light upon the ground, as though it had shone in upon them through a window, “ From Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust.

Gardening is a shared passion in the U.S. Statistics about gardening are hard to find because the industry makes you pay for them. What I did find on is that 117.6 million people in the US participated in gardening in 2017. That’s almost 40% of the total population! I would have time to do more research but I’m too busy gardening.

My friend and consultant Denise Hoffman-Brandt, Director of Graduate Landscape Architecture, CCNY , was here with me last week in Owls Head.  I met her in 2009 when she was part of a fantastic team of architects and designers, including David Howard, former Head Gardener to HRH Prince Charles, creating a Master Plan for the restoration and preservation of landscape at Bartram’s Garden, the oldest botanic garden in America. I was the Executive Director at the time and honored to be part of this important work. I admired Denise’s creativity and vision then and years later, in 2015, when I finally had a garden of my own, begged her to come create a similar plan for me.  The plan she developed shows three phases, and identifies different areas of our ocean-side property and an extensive list of native, perennial plants. This year we built a new garden on the west side of the driveway, where there was nothing, and installed a cutting garden, mostly dahlias and lavender, on the ocean side of the house. The water side is tricky because of the salt winds and deer.

I typically spend a good part of the summer in the garden but this year my efforts have quadrupled because I’m on the Georges River Land Trust Annual Garden Tour. ( This is a fundraiser for the conservation organization and I’m honored to be included. However, it means that I am going crazy in the garden. The hard work started in in May, and when Denise was here,  and will continue until July 15, when 400 plus people will troop through my garden.

I’m tired and sore but the flowers, bees, birds, and blue sky tempt me, like an addiction I can’t resist. I put on my boots, gloves and out I go, wearing my mother’s straw hat.  It is almost in pieces now but it gives me an extra boost of confidence. For all I claim to be a garden girl, it is my mother who taught me how.


All photos by Sal Taylor Kidd.