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Monthly Archives: February 2015

February 27, 2015

Garden Writing in the Car

garden writing in the car

Working on this book has been a pleasant reminder that one thing leads to another. Each small action produces new tunnels and pathways that transport us to our next thing. Talking to one designer or influencer usually turns me on to another designer or influencer that has relevant ideas (not just for my book, but for life).

To provide some context for my talks with designers, I should say that about once a week I conduct interviews over the phone while I’m in the car line waiting to pick up one of my children from school. I like to be in the front of the car line, so when the bell rings, my kid walks out of the school and into my car. The thought of them standing at the curb looking furtively for my car wedged somewhere in the serpentine trail of vehicles compels me to show up thirty minutes early. And how do I spend those quiet, normally uninterrupted thirty minutes? Phone interviews. When I spoke with Charles Birnbaum (see previous post), I was situated exactly where I am at this moment: first in the car line at my son’s middle school.

For the talk with Charles, I had my Mac open in my lap, my seat drawn as far back as possible, my youngest daughter in the back seat playing with her stuffed animals, and me with a crinkled forehead hanging on Charles’ every word as I typed furiously. This is an absurd working-mom cliché, and I almost hate to bring it up, but my daughter had an honest-to-God bathroom emergency during the call. She had to go, like now. Not sure if this opportunity to talk to Charles would repeat itself, I left my car running, walked my girl to the school bathroom, and continued the interview, listening intently sans laptop, committing every spoken word to memory. When we returned to the car, I said goodbye to Charles and typed out everything I could remember while simultaneously murmuring love talk to my daughter behind me.

That call–25 minutes of gold–led to a conversation with landscape architect Lisa Gimmy, who Charles is understandably a huge fan of. After speaking with her myself and seeing her work, so am I. More about her later.

Today, my thirty minutes in the car line was a joyful exchange with Raymond Jungles, who speaks without self-consciousness or reservation about all aspects of gardens.

I wrote about Raymond’s design for the Jones garden in Key West many years ago for a column called Anatomy Lesson in Garden Design magazine. I pitched the column concept to my editor Bill Marken (the column’s name was his idea, which appealed to the side of me that sometimes wishes I were more particular and academic than I actually am), and it appeared in every issue for a while. The idea was to break down the fundamentals of a successful garden with arrows and call-outs that explained what the designer was up to. The Jones garden was and is all about finding the remnant spaces left over when a house takes up most of the lot, and transforming those areas in to the property’s most significant and attractive features.

Now that I’m giving it some thought, I wonder if we bumped up the Jones story to a four-page feature. Not sure.

In my next post, I’ll share some more of Raymond’s insights on small space gardens, but for now I’ve got to go. The bell is ringing and here comes my son.