Erythronium montanum

Avalanche Lily
LILIACEAE, The lily family

So, this morning I was a guest on The Garden Doctor radio show. I left my house early so I could have time to stop for chai and a bagel before biking to the radio station. I’ve been told by an expert that there’s nothing to do to prepare for this kind of thing, but nonetheless I felt I needed some collected thought to fall back on in case all my thoughts were scattered. So I jotted down my top three landscape design tips:

How do the spaces you have to work with fit together/relate to each other and your buildings? Use plan drawings and function diagrams to help think this through, going back and forth between concepts on paper and moving through the space. Even if you don’t have the time and money to complete the whole project at once, plan it out so you know what your goals are and so that things ultimately are unified.

Start your design process by brainstorming boldly, whimsically, brazenly. Put any and all ideas on the table, sort them later. When you go to throw out ones that you think you could never afford, ask yourself what about the idea is great. Maybe that concept can be incorporated on a different scale.

In each step of design, installation and maintenance, think though your choices to evaluate functionality, cost effectiveness, environmental sustainability and aesthetics. Also, look for places where you can add fun and personal touches.

Even if you have a very low maintenance garden, be sure to go through the yard each season for a through clean-up and check-up. If there are issues that need attention you can get advice or help promptly.

People who have beautiful, expressive gardens are there in them. It is an investment of time and effort. They don’t just have ‘green thumbs’, they have callused thumbs. I think of there being a difference (among the projects I design) between ‘landscapes’ and ‘gardens’. I don’t think of it as a difference of scale, but rather of use and intent: a garden is a place to be and do, and landscape is to look at or pass through. A small residential front yard is ‘landscaped’ if the purpose of growing plants there is to have it ‘look nice’ to drivers-by. It would be a garden if the owner was out watering at dusk, chatting with the neighbors, adding a plant here and moving another over there: watching, waiting, tending. The land loves the intention of growing, it will respond. I guess another, less Jeffersonian, way to say it is that when changing the land you must have an open heart and the right frame of mind: be ready to slow down and learn.

I also wrote down my five favorite underused plants for the day:
Garrya elliptica, Coast silk tassel
Cyclamen hederifolium, Ivy leaved cyclamen
Vaccinium ovatum, Evergreen huckleberry
Nyssa sylvatica, Black Gum, Tupelo
Vaccinium ‘Sunshine Blue’, Evergreen blueberry

So, of course I mentioned none of these things on air. If you’d like to hear what I did get to chat about, go to and click on At Your Service Saturdays/The Garden Doctor for July 28.

About Mulysa

I love my work as a landscape designer and artist. When I'm not planning homesteads or working in the studio, you'll find me hiking, photographing, gardening, baking, cooking vegetarian meals with friends, reading and working on sustainability issues...with my baby on my hip in Portland, Oregon.
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One Response to Erythronium montanum

  1. annie says:

    GReat blog!! and website. Looking forward to checking it out soon

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