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A Writer's Garden

by Patricia L. Fry

Balance is key to successful living. And writers are particularly careless about establishing balance in their lives. I try to balance my passion for writing with family and household interests, physical activity, quiet/meditative time and socializing as well as other creative endeavors. I didn't know how important creative outlets were for a working writer until I took up gardening with a more artistic eye.

I had always taken care of a yard - I mowed lawns and tended flowers. But a few years ago I took this interest a step further and planted a vegetable garden. The pleasure and satisfaction that came from preparing the soil, planting seeds, nurturing the plants, harvesting the vegetables and bringing them to the table was incredible. I'll never forget the Thanksgiving that I served pies made from pumpkins that grew in my little garden.

My garden is my sanctuary when I need a break from the office. It's where I vent. (Have you ever pulled weeds to release the frustrations of a particularly difficult project?) It gives my hands and heart new purpose and brings me pleasure.

If you'd like a garden where you can express your creativity, spend pockets of time away from your work, enjoy serenity or even work through your frustrations, here's what I recommend:

Start small. Choose a small area to transform - maybe a plot within view of your office or a long neglected garden bed. For instant gratification, plant seedlings or plants. For summer splash, plant a package of sunflower seeds or wild flowers. You can grow a few carrots, onions, beans, beets or tomatoes in a fairly small, sunny space. I even plant a winter vegetable garden. During the months of March and April, I enjoy snow peas (pea pods) in salads, sautéed as a side dish and as a healthy snack. I grow about a dozen snow pea plants in a narrow space measuring four feet long.

Garden smart. There are numerous ways to approach your garden project. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you want. Go to the nursery and select an array of flowers or veggies that you love and just plant them. Or draw up a plan for planting based on careful study and research. If you're new to gardening, I suggest you invest in a good garden book so you'll know which seeds to plant during which season, how much space they'll need and whether they prefer sun or shade, for example.

If money is an issue, plant a friendship garden. Swap plants with friends and neighbors or transplant things that are already growing in your own yard.

Lead with your heart. Have fun with your garden. I intermingle veggies and flowers, for example. My gardens might include lavender, nasturtiums, calendula, sweet peas and a potted miniature rose with rows of cabbage, onions, string beans and a few squash and tomatoes plants. There's usually a sunflower or two coming up in the spring, as well.

Bring together the things you love. I like using birdhouses, birdfeeders and other yard ornaments in my gardens. Some gardeners incorporate artwork among their plants-sculptures, mosaic items and so forth.

I recently planted a small space outside my office window in pale shades of lavender and pink pansies, stalk and alyssum. I used a cat-shaped stepping stone in the little flower bed and placed a garden fairy statue there. Because I can't see the garden when I'm sitting at my desk, I hung a pot of pansies on a shepherd's hook within view. I also hung a hummingbird feeder outside this window. Now, I enjoy the outdoors even when I'm hard at work.

Design a meditation or contemplation garden. Set aside a garden space large enough that you can create the illusion of privacy. Place a small bench there among plants and shrubs that calm and delight you. I suggest planting things in varying heights, textures and colors. Plant something fragrant and plants that rustle in the breeze. Add a water feature, decorative rocks and, perhaps a bird feeder or two. If you choose low maintenance plants, you can spend more time in meditation than tending the garden.

Attract wildlife. If you enjoy birds, butterflies and other wildlife, plant things that will attract them. Butterflies like lavender, for example. Birds are drawn to plants with berries. Research the birds and butterflies in your area and choose plants that will bring them in.

Plant a memory garden. Incorporate things you remember your parents or your grandparents growing. I'm particular fond of pansies because my grandmother enjoyed them.

Grow an herb garden. There are so many lovely and fragrant herbs that grow quite easily even in a small space. Carry your creativity to a new level by using herbs in cooking, teas, craft projects and for medicinal purposes.

Do container gardening. You can create the illusion of a garden inside or on a small patio or balcony with potted plants. Grow a backdrop of bamboo or another attractive plant in large pots. Plant smaller containers full of colorful flowering plants or an array of interesting succulents, for example. In a sunny spot, you can even grow a small salad garden in containers.

What is a writer's garden? It's where a writer can express his/her creativity through the process of gardening or where he/she can go to relax and, perhaps, become inspired. My garden has inspired several articles. There's this one, for example. I have also written articles on meditation and contemplation gardens, therapeutic gardens and gardening, how to start a club related to herb gardening, walking gardens, gardening for at-risk children and rehabilitation gardens for troubled kids.

Quiet time in my garden enhances my work. After tending a flowerbed, watering my orchids or just walking through my gardens, for example, I return to the office more relaxed and refreshed.

If you enjoy gardening or simply spending time in a garden, consider establishing your writer's garden.

- Copyright 2002 Patricia Fry

Patricia Fry has been writing for publication for 29 years, having contributed hundreds of articles to about 160 different magazines. She is also the author of 12 books, including "A Writer's Guide to Magazine Articles" (



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