Welcome to the Compulsive Gardener Blog!

A few of my favorite garden books — see the Resources page

Recently, someone suggested to me that I start a garden blog and this time, the idea just seemed ripe. Years ago, someone else had suggested I write a gardening book. My hesitation then (and even now) is that I don’t consider myself to be a master gardener of any sort. There are so many terrific gardening books, landscape designers and resources out there. Though I’ve gardened most of my life, and especially the last 20 years, there is always so much more to learn. So, I don’t consider myself an expert or to have a perfect garden. Quite the contrary. But I’d like to offer encouragement, share photos and stories, and offer whatever tips and resources might be helpful to both new and seasoned gardeners in Sonoma County, California and elsewhere–a chat over the garden fence with friends, as it were.

A young flowering crabapple up on the hill, with a view of the Mayacamas mountains in the distance.
A young flowering crabapple up on the hill (marginally protected from deer) and a view of the Mayacamas mountains in the distance.

Though the current garden is on 5 acres, (which was only possible due to a rare situation), I’ve gardened in a variety of spaces. In many ways, small yards are my favorite because you can nurture them with great care. Though we’re grateful to have the space to grow fruit trees, berries, herbs, mushrooms, veggies and lavender, the size of it constantly gets away from us. It’s endless, read: compulsive. But there are worse things to be compulsive about! Gardening is good exercise, provides healthy food, habitat for small creatures, and is a wonderful form of therapy.

When I speak about gardening, it’s so intertwined with other lifestyle elements for me that I will be including those as well–just for fun. It certainly includes growing fruits and veggies, herbs and flowers, habitat plants for bees and butterflies, and landscaping plants. But it also flows nicely with recycling, upcycling, expressing joy through creativity, and just sitting in the living aliveness of it all.

A garden is sort of like a relationship. Something to love and get to know intimately and which grows and matures over time. If you are starting a new garden, it will be helpful to observe the environment carefully: how much sun does it get and what shadows are cast throughout the day and during a year? What are the temperature ranges and weather conditions your garden will encounter? What kind of soil and water source are you working with? And, it can be helpful to talk to a nearby neighbor who gardens to find out what pests and diseases you may have to contend with. I will include a list of helpful books on this site that can help you navigate those conditions.

If you are in the happy position of obtaining a property, in addition to the above, try to wait a year before imposing a definite design on the place. Many properties have delightful surprises that you will only discovery by observation over the course of at least a year, like beautiful bulbs planted by a former resident, or other hidden gems.

Or, you may find that the place you wanted to plant a tree which prefers good drainage becomes a vernal pool in the wet winter. For example, I learned the hard way that gardening in my Sonoma County location requires gopher-protection, that there are years with lows down to 15°, that though spring might offer an abundance of sunny weather, that we (in our low spot) can get a frost on the full moon of May. You might like to keep a garden journal for records.

Old Plum blossoms in early spring

It’s very inspiring to look through garden books and get ideas. I love to do that, especially in wintertime–to dream new dreams that will be ready to come to life in the spring with the emerging buds. I would just say one thing about this: if, over time, you find that you become frustrated at not being able to create the kind of pristine garden seen in such books and magazines, please don’t give up hope. Remember, most of those probably had a professional designer and a team of young strong gardeners maintaining them, and were very well-funded. If that is not your situation, please don’t give up. Some of my favorite gardens anywhere are small and charming and full of personality.

Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly and honeysuckle
Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly and honeysuckle

Find a comfortable chair or bench to put in your garden, or several if you have a larger space. Take up the invitation to just sit and enjoy your garden at times. Listen to the birds. Look at the sky. Watch a ladybug. Let the thoughts drift by with the wind and bask in the sun. Enjoy!

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