Life by Design Inside and Out – Second Edition

This is the second in a series of creative perspectives about life and the design process from interior designer Kim Macumber and myself.  You can read Kim’s blog at:

Clearing Space In The Garden by Heather McLean

Spring is a great time to make a fresh start. As the seasons change, it’s natural for many of us to begin to think about spring cleaning and clutter clearing the inside of our homes, but this can also be an ideal time to evaluate our garden outside. Whether you hire a professional to consult with, or do it yourself, there is a lot to be gained by getting a clean start.


“All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft Earth. I can feel it’s energy, and my spirits soar.” Helen Hayes

Once someone asked me if my garden consultations were complimentary. I had to laugh because all I could think was, yes, if it’s a pretty nice garden. The truth is, I am always able to see more potential in the situation than most of my clients are able to see. My job is mostly about finding appreciation for the inherent beauty that is sometimes hidden. The magic is taking that bit of beauty and amplifying it. But sometimes beauty is hidden under many years of overgrowth and collections of random stuff.

Gardeners are notorious for acquiring and keeping all sorts of things. Along with the expected hospital of sickly and recovering plants, I always find stacks of pots. Many are broken and unusable but saved for some future need, “just in case.” I often sort through vast collections of decorative statues. I have seen gardens where bunnies, gnomes, kittens, puppies, turtles, mushrooms, fairies and even Buddha and St Francis are all hanging out together at an endless garden party with an unrestricted guest list. Some gardeners have birdbaths, wind chimes, fountains and feeders that have all been carried home and set out in the garden. I have also seen old doors, broken chairs, former christmas decorations, mirrors, shoes and boots made into planters, picture frames, plastic flowers and even a kitchen sink that found a retirement home outside.

But where is the garden? For me, a garden plays a symphony with its sequence of bloom and tells a story with it’s ornaments. So many things acquired over time may have been interesting individually but all together they can lose their meaning. It’s like too much jewelry overpowering an outfit or too many accessories in a room. We need to start with a clean slate. I often ask if I can clear the space of all of the items so that I can see the garden’s structure underneath. Then I can evaluate what needs to be cut back, what needs to be planted and what might need to be removed. Once the garden has been tidied up we can bring back the items thoughtfully.

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I always say “Landscape like you mean it!” If you are creating a habitat for birds, let’s organize those items together in a purposeful arrangement. If you are collecting bunny statues, let’s think about planting an area that gives the right setting for their size and scale. If fairies have been setting up shop in your garden, let’s go all in and create a miniature garden world for them.

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You don’t have to choose a single theme for your garden, but it will feel less cluttered and make more sense if you dedicate a space for each collection or interest. So why not go get a bit of fresh air and take a tour of your garden. Let me know how your tidying up goes. Clearing space can open up your garden and your heart. I bet you will feel better both inside and out.

remember, goodness grows,


This entry was posted in Garden Design, Gardeneing, Life by Design, Inside and Out and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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