“It is by the grace of God that our fields and hothouses are filled with blooms that can be arranged and exchanges in the act of giving.

It is through another gesture of grace that certain blooms have been plucked and fastened forever by the hand of one with an unflinching perception of the color, form, and personality of the flower.”

— Patti Smith


I once owned a home in Smyrna, Georgia. It was a brick cottage surrounded by small gardens. Those gardens comforted my husband and me for eight years, until we left our home in October of 2004 to move to San Francisco for my husband’s business.

In Smyrna, we lived and worked on a half-acre lot. We redesigned the landscape and made it into a quaint and diverse collection of gardens. The shade gardens rested under two very old oak trees. Nearby, a perennial garden bloomed continuously, and an herb and vegetable garden lay in a larger ten-by-ten foot planter. During the summer months, the herbs and vegetables provided food and seasonings for homemade meals.

There were the many gardening concerns we faced while in Smyrna. We used to wonder what to do with the invasive ivy. Should we cut it all the way back and let it take over nearby tree trunks, or should we let it cascade and attach to the red brick, giving our home a charming exterior? The rose of Sharon stood, overshadowed by two old oaks, after sixty years of growth. I had nurtured the mimosa into an umbrella-like shape and it leaned gracefully over the cobblestone driveway.

The outdoor tasks added harmony to our lives, as well as significant pleasure and a sense of accomplishment at the end of a long workday. Whether we were raking bags of fallen leaves or pruning shrubs and trees, there was an insurmountable calm that came over us as we worked. As well, I enjoyed the many clippings of perennials that I brought into our home. This is what I experienced and loved about gardening in the south.

So much was left behind in Georgia – a new weeping willow tree, the acubas next to our bedroom window, and azaleas that bloomed beneath the front windows of our house. The legustrums and eliagnus had grown into a wall of greenery between our property and the neighbors, and it provided us with privacy.

Touching the soil or placing a fragrant branch with buds in the palm of my hand was a rejuvenating and healing experience. My garden in the south provided much fulfillment and after two years in San Francisco, I found that I needed to get in touch with nature once again. That’s when I started designing container gardens for each patio of our apartment, which stood in the center of San Francisco’s urban landscape. The touch of nature has been especially therapeutic for my bouts of depression, which I carry with me often.