Chatting By the Garden Gate

Our 'Autumn' Blaze Red Maple reflects the beauty of each Autumn day!

Hi Friends!

These glorious, late October days have been busy ones in the garden! Instead of cool, early mornings in the garden, I have been spending the warmer, afternoon hours gardenkeeping. Our ‘Autumn Blaze’ Red Maple is in full color now. What a joy to look skyward and take in her glory! Her leaves are fluttering down and we will be raking very soon.


I have been harvesting herbs to add the warmth of summer to our winter soups.

On Saturday, we worked together to give the white picket fence around the Herb & Tea Garden a fresh coat of white paint for the snowy months ahead.  This big task was actually enjoyable, as we worked together. My husband painted along the outside, while I painted the inside. Fascinating conversation mingled with the wonderful scent of  herbs. A frisky squirrel entertained us from the branches of a nearby tree, while Maple seeds twirled down around us. Very tired, but happy, I finished cleaning up just as darkness fell.

papergardencollageToday I gathered bunches of Lacecap Hydrangeas to dry.

What fun it was to add color from my perennial gardens to my little ‘Paper Garden’ studio downstairs! Dried flowers and herbs from the past three summers hang from the ceiling rafters over my creative papercrafting space. They truly fill my heart with inspiration as I create! I feel so blessed to be able to enjoy time in the ‘garden’ all year long!

As I reflect back on this year’s gardening season, the word that comes to mind is change. Mindful, intentional changes have kept me busy in the backyard for many weeks.  I’m already planning big changes for the perennial beds in the front yard next year. My gardener’s heart tells me that it is time to ‘right size’ my flower gardens. Although change is never easy, I’m already making plans for a new look in the garden… and I’m excited!

A wonderful book has filled me with both inspiration and practical advice…


The Right-Size Flower Garden, by Kerry Ann Mendez, caught my eye last year on a ‘New Books’ shelf at the library. Within the first few pages, I knew that this book was speaking to my heart! It definitely passed my ‘spark joy’ test, so it was a valuable addition to my own gardening library.

A garden author and lecturer, Kerry Ann shares her advice with the perfect blend of practical experience and her delightful sense of humor, as she guides us step-by-step to create a garden in balance with our lifestyle. As I read, I often found myself nodding in agreement, as the author shared her own stories of the changes in her garden.

Kerry Ann reminds us, “To reduce work by 50%, then at least half of your garden will require editing.” She shows us how to edit our gardens using her “Three R’s” approach. Kerry Ann’s advice has been so helpful as I decide which garden beds will “Remain, be Revamped, or be Removed.” She assures us that the changes will be exhilarating, as the Refinement of our gardens brings us Relief and Relaxation.

Beginning the process of ‘right-sizing’ my perennial gardens this summer was a huge first step for me. My very favorite, old-fashioned flowers and those with sentimental value found new homes in my Herb & Tea Garden and my History Garden. These plants will continue ‘spark joy’ for me in the garden. My large Cutting Garden bed is now gone and the newly planted grass seeds are already creating a carpet of green in its place. It will be so much friendlier to mow a little more grass, instead of weeding the large Cutting Garden bed.  I am already feeling a sense of relief!

Removing a large patch of orange Daylilies along the garage to create my ‘History Garden’ was a real challenge. Digging up the plants was a test of physical stamina, while it was emotionally difficult to toss away so many beautiful, healthy plants. I just kept repeating Kerry Ann’s mantra ~ “These are not children or pets.” If you crept up behind me as I was digging, I’m sure you heard me!

I felt so grateful for Kerry Ann’s permission, wisdom, and guidance to begin these big changes! The Right-Size Flower Garden has also been a wonderful resource of suggested plants for each part of my garden. I have learned more about the plants that I have grown for years and have many ideas of ways to replace these high-maintenance plants with low-maintenance alternatives. I can’t wait to try her recipe to rid my grass of Creeping Charlie (a perennial weed, also called Ground Ivy) next Spring! I will be sure to report back with the results!

The Right-Size Flower Garden is a delight to read (and reread!) and a valuable resource, as we design gardens that provide color, fragrance, and privacy with drought-tolerant perennials, shrubs, and trees. While the 2016 gardening season is still fresh in our minds, it’s the perfect time to be mindful of what worked well and what could be better in next year’s garden. Over the winter months, I will reread this book leisurely, with a cup of tea, as I plan more garden changes with intention. It holds the seeds of inspiration for “Refinement, Relief, and Relaxation” in my beloved perennial gardens!

Have you been thinking about any changes in your garden?

    Hope you will share your thoughts with us!

Thank you so much for stopping to visit today.

Wishing you a Happy Halloween,

and a wonderful start to November!

Happy Autumn days!

♡ Dawn










33 thoughts on “Chatting By the Garden Gate

  1. Kerry Mendez is from my part of the Country so I can usually hear her talk gardening once or twice a year, and it is always a pleasure. That book is on my to buy list, and I need to get it. 🙂 I took out four beds last year and never regretted it. This year I moved things around in the too many remaining beds to provide more ground cover and less weeding and mulching. I still have too many perennials that need deadheading and am looking to replace with some colorful shrubs. I hate to even write that, Dawn, but there comes a time when bending over for hours at a time is not fun anymore. I’ve been deadheading for days now, and I am nowhere near done. I’ll keep at it this week and finish it up but I’ll be catalog shopping over the winter. 🙂

    • Oh, Judy! What a joy it must be to hear Kerry talk about gardening! This book will truly speak to your heart. Although my garden is much smaller than yours. I can tell that we are feeling exactly the same, Judy! ♥♥ We must follow Kerry’s mantra (“They are not children or pets.”), and let some of them go. It’s such a hard thing to do!! Since we don’t have any children, my plants have always felt like my children. In fact, when my husband comes home and I have spent the day in the garden, he often asks, “How are the kids?” 🙂 My favorite thing is finding good homes for my extra perennials ~ especially sharing the gift of gardening with brand new gardeners just starting out! It brings me so much joy!

      In the book, Kerry tells us that perennials will always be more work in the garden than shrubs or trees. Lots of changes coming next year for the front yard! 🙂 Have I ever told you that deadheading is one of my very favorite gardening tasks? 🙂 It always feels like a thankful meditation, appreciating each spent blossom and helping to create new blossoms! Wish we were neighbors, Judy! We could chat about our love of gardening, while I help you deadhead. I would learn so much from your Master Gardener expertise! Hope the weather cooperates until your deadheading is finished, my friend! Have a great week! ♡

  2. You painted the entire fence???!!!! I have been struggling with the thought and/but my Annabelle hydrangea hedge has kept me in a state of delay. Cut and paint (soon?) or leave and give in to shabby chic? What do you say, Dawn? Great book advice! Can’t wait to read it!

    • I love the chabby chic look, Louise! 🙂 My white picket fence is showing its age and I am trying to preserve it as long as I can. My dad helped me build it the year Susan’s ‘Summer’ book was published. It truly is the heart of my garden! The deep winter snows have taken its toll on my little fence. So, I keep painting it often, with hopes of making it last a bit longer.I think you will enjoy this book, too, Louise! Do let me know! Have a wonderful week ahead! ♡

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed your post. What a wonderful way of gathering up your Fall treasures from the garden and putting them to good use indoors. Just love Fall. There are so many ways to enjoy your herbs. What do you do to keep the flavors throughout the winter months? I’ve tried freezing them in ice cube trays with olive oil or broth. I’ve also recently tried drying them in the microwave.

    • Oh, thank you, Loretta! I love to fill baskets and crocks with dried Hydrangeas to enjoy the garden inside during the winter. It truly warms my heart to hang dried flowers and herbs from the rafters of our unfinished basement, over my ‘Paper Garden’ studio! 🙂 I smile every single time I see them! I usually freeze the herbs just like you, Loretta. I haven’t tried microwaving them yet. This year, I decided to bring a bit of the herb garden inside so that I can use them fresh, too. So, I have been rooting them in water in our sunny dining room window. I’m going to dig up the tender herbs to overwinter inside, especially Rosemary, Basil, and Pineapple Sage. It’s fun to do a teeny, tiny bit of gardening inside while the snowflakes fall outside! 🙂 Enjoy this beautiful Autumn week, Loretta! ♡

  4. I just came back from the Hospital…and opened up the mailbox and found your blog name in the list. The immense pleasure I get from reading your blog can’t be put into words. After all day of rigorous check up due to my head injury and the stress…reading your mail after taking a nice shower and before going to sleep is an absolute therapy. It’s like someone telling me to stay positive and look into the brighter side of my life. And I just love how beautifully to express your thoughts. It’s like a poetry. I wish I had such talent too.

    • Oh, Ricky! I hope you will feel better very soon! I’m keeping you in my thoughts as you heal. Your sweet words are such a gift of kindness! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! You must stay sunny ~ inside and out! ♥ Some days we just have to make our own sunshine! This sounds like one of those days. I have peeked into your art studio and seen your wonderful talents, Ricky. Hope you can sit quietly and enjoy some creative time as you rest and recover. Think good thoughts all week long! Big hugs! ♡

  5. Dawn it’s lovely to see another book recommendation from you. I understand the “not children or pets” mantra. It is quite hard to remove living things that have brought such joy. Downsizing my beds has been an ongoing process over the last few years as this ole gal tires more easily. I still get excited over new ideas to expand and find I must rein those thoughts in and stick to a master plan. I love how you bring in your hydrangeas to dry and decorate your paper garden. Your picket fence is just beautiful and I’m sure you are happy to have it all ready for winter. Happy days to you , my friend. ♥

    • Heartfelt thanks, dear Martha Ellen! Some books are just too good not to share! As you can tell, I’m a nonfiction reader. I was so grateful to happen upon this book at the library! Otherwise, I would never have known about all of the wisdom and advice it holds. It has helped me to formulate a practical plan that I can work on in phases. Challenging as it is, I am excited to see all of the coming changes! 🙂 I have called upon that wise mantra many times over the past month or so. I just kept digging, digging, digging. We are kindred spirits for sure, Martha Ellen! Our hearts (also our knees and backs) tell us when it is time to make some changes.

      I just love Hydrangeas!! Even my wedding bouquet was filled with Hydrangeas. I asked the floral designer to create a bouquet that looked like I just gathered flowers from an old-fashioned garden! 🙂 We are trying to protect our picket fence from the deep winter snows. It’s showing its age… but I truly hope it will last for a while longer. It is the heart of my garden. Happy Halloween! I know you will have a fun time at your house, Martha Ellen! Sending warm hugs! ♡

  6. Dawn I forgot to mention how amazingly lovely your Autumn Blaze Red Maple tree is! Our autumn is not providing us with the beauty as we’ve seen in the past. The leaves that have fallen are brown and dry. Some years are prettier than others. I really enjoyed seeing your beautiful tree. ♥

    • Isn’t it spectacular, Martha Ellen? ‘Autumn Blaze’ is so reliable, bringing us brilliant color every Autumn. It always begins to change at the very top, while the lower branches are still bright green. So, it surprises me every year! I always discover the color change when I am in the backyard, looking over our rooftop, and notice the brilliant red leaves at the top of the tree in our front yard. 🙂 A few leaves have danced their way down, but it’s not time to rake quite yet. I’m so happy to share our colorful tree with you, my friend!♡

  7. Happy Halloween! I’m sure the little tricksters will be out and about in your neighborhood soon. We used to get hordes of children in our old house, but, sadly, none come here (not even the boys next door when they were of treating age). Our house is set so far back that kids can hit 4 or 5 houses instead of ours. 🙂
    I will look for The Right-Size Flower Garden. It sounds like a book I would both enjoy and put to good use. I did have big plans for our garden, but, they will need to wait until Spring. My foot is still in a boot, healing, and I can’t be on it enough to even clean out the pots. All in good time, but, in the meantime, the marigolds and coleus are still holding court and the leaves are falling and changing colors. Joy supreme.
    I love your basket of herbs, Dawn, and can imagine the fragrance they give forth.

    • Happy Halloween, Penny! Ours is a quiet, older neighborhood. So, we don’t get too many trick-or-treaters. We really enjoy the cuties that do stop by. The sweetest little penguin just came to our door.:) I’m always impressed that everyone always says ‘thank you’ for the treats!

      I think you would enjoy this book, Penny! Our library has a copy, if you would like to check it out. 🙂 I’m so sorry that all of your Autumn garden plans were derailed this year. Just take time to rest and heal completely. It will be restful to watch the falling leaves from a cozy chair near the window, with a cup of your favorite tea. “Joy supreme!” I love your words, dear Penny! Sending our best wishes as you are healing! Big hugs, my friend! ♡

  8. Hello Dawn, It was lovely to read about your enjoyable time painting with your husband, I too love having my husband working with me in the garden, priceless! We are currently creating a new bed inside our garden and having great fun in doing so. We plan together a lot and have lots of books weighing our shelves down! I like the look of your book, very informative. Happy Autumn days to you too☺️🍁🍂

    • Happy Halloween, Jenny! I know that your gorgeous gardens are a team effort. You are working so hard to create the most beautiful walled garden! I love watching your progress, Jenny! It’s so inspiring! I’m the gardener in our family. It’s always a delight when my husband and I share hours together in the garden. Definitely priceless! Isn’t it wonderful to plan and dream our garden dreams? It’s one of my favorite things to do in the winter, with a cup of tea! Thank you so much, Jenny, for sharing your beautiful garden with everyone in blogland! Wishing you a wonderful week in the garden! ♡

    • Don’t feel discouraged, Marlene! We all have years like that sometimes. The winter months are just perfect for dreaming our garden dreams and finding inspiration in gardening books and seed catalogs. You made a good step in your garden this year! It will be nice to add a few more plants each year. Thanks so much for visiting today, Marlene! Wishing you a good start to November!💗

  9. Well Dawn, I sounds as if you have taken The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and moved outside to the gardens!! But gardens should be changing and evolving, I think anyway.
    Hot, dry and dusty here, hard to think of Fall. Hopefully the weather will change soon!
    Thanks for showing us the book, I will head to the Library this week and take a look!
    I have a cat on my lap this morning that doesn’t want me to type, so I must be brief!😀🐈

    • So true, Chris! Using the ‘spark joy’ test works great when designing a ‘right size’ garden. Wish we could send you and your sweet mom some gentle showers for your garden! Special thanks to you (and your furry helper) for stopping to visit today, dear Chris! Happy November days! 💗

  10. Dawn,
    I am going to look into checking out a copy of this book. I have felt, this past year, that my own garden was in need of some editing. I love a garden book that provides inspiration and guidance! I know your garden will be lovely and look forward to progress reports.
    The season gives me a little extra boost of energy to make changes in the house and garden.

    • I think you would really enjoy this book, Karen! Kerry Ann has many suggestions for drought tolerant plants, too. Our love for gardening keeps us ‘growing’ as our gardens evolve. Wishing you delightful, cooler November days in the garden, Karen! 💗

    • Rabbit! Rabbit! dear Anne! You always say the sweetest things. I am so grateful for our long friendship! Since most of the gardenkeeping is finished for the season, I am looking forward to more creative time with ink, paper, stamps, and watercolors. 😊 I have promised myself creative time every day in November. It makes me so happy… and I really need the practice! Sending hugs! Have a wonderful week! 💗

    • So happy that you will read this wonderful book, Ginnie! Kerry Ann has a delightful way of teaching and inspiring at the same time! I love her sense of humor, too! The cooler weather is just perfect for a nice gardening book and a cup of tea! Let me know what you think! Happy November days, dear Ginnie! 💗

  11. Your tree is magnificent and reminds me of the Japanese maple that was by the front porch of our home in New Hampshire. Thanks for bringing back nice memories. It sounds like your redoing your gardens will certainly cut down on the amount of work in the future making the gardening al the more pleasurable.

    • So happy to bring back sweet Autumn memories, Karen! It won’t be long until the leaf raking begins! I’m really looking forward to my ‘right-size’ garden in the coming years. Step-by-step… The changes are exciting! Enjoy your Florida garden this Autumn! 💗

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