Home Outside

  • Post published:03/16/2009
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            Julie Moir Messervy, the well-known landscape designer and author of books like The Inward Garden, Outside the Not So Big House, and most recently, Home Outside, is coming to town.  Messervy will be the keynote speaker the Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners Spring Symposium, Feeding Soil, Self and Soul, on March 21.

            Messervy knows that our homes are probably the most important spaces in our lives. We celebrate at home and refresh ourselves at home. We can enjoy our family and friends in our homes, or enjoy quiet solitude.

            But when we say we are going home, we don’t only mean into our house. Our home includes our yards and gardens.  In her new book, Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love (Taunton Press $30), Messervy takes us through the various steps that help us build our outdoor spaces into pleasure grounds that will function as social spaces or private retreats.

One useful aspect of this densely and beautifully illustrated book is how it encompasses a great variety of living and garden styles, in a variety of climates, and in spaces both expansive and intimate.

Designing your space begins with an assessment of your property, “taking an inventory of the existing conditions” and then envisioning the ideal. “This two-step process of weaving dream and reality is at the heart of creating your home outside,” she writes.

After this evaluation which includes your budget, it is time to think about the Big Moves, the ‘set of organizing strategies that pull the different parts of the landscape together.” Messervy is aware of the constraints of budget and time, and allows for tackling the job in phases, which also allows ideas to shift and be refined as the plan takes shape.

One chapter describes and shows ways that we can create the spaces needed for our own comfort, however we define comfort, for welcome, neighborliness and privacy.

I think one of the problems many of us have is how to create a flow throughout the garden. How do we move through the various areas, the front, side and backyards, conveniently and comfortably and how do we create attractions along that stroll? In addition to thinking about designing the path itself, meandering, curving or straight, Messervy gives many examples of path arrangements and materials.

Every garden is comprised of various forms, textures and colors because of the variety of plants. But who among us does not include other items, functional like bird baths, or decorative like a sculpture? Messervy devotes a wonderful chapter to choosing and placing objects, chairs, stones, figures, sundials, lanterns, tables and potted plants, in the garden to play with scale and create focal points. She points out the charm of movement in the garden whether it is created by birds at a feeder, a wind chime, or the play of the wind through ornamental grasses.

The photographs in the book make her points very clear. Also included are many schematic sketches of landscapes with house and planting arrangements that I found particularly useful.

The final chapter is essentially a case study of a cottage in the woods, a tiny house on a small lot that embodies all Messervy’s principles, achieved over a period of time. Even the paint chosen for the house reflects the plantings. The result is charming and encouraging.  I can imagine myself coming up with an equally charming plan for my own landscape.

Messervy has encouraged many people over the years with her books; on her travels to design amazing gardens like the Toronto Music Garden, a collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma and the Toronto Parks Department inspired by Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello; and as she works with clients from her Saxton River Design Studio (www.jmmds.com) in Vermont. She is also an editor and contributor to Fine Gardening Magazine.

She designed several Massachusetts gardens including two at  Mount Holyoke College,  and she collaborated with master Kinsaku Nakane  on the Tenshin-En Japanese garden at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

World Eye Book Shop will be on hand to sell a selection of gardening books including Home Outside which Messervy will be happy to sign.

A crew of Master Gardeners, other specialists, and I, will be offering a range of eleven workshops before and after Messervy speaks. John Barry will talk about Growing Lilacs, Bruce and Anne Aune about Rock Gardens, and Jenny Tufts will give a workshop on Yoga for Gardeners that will help us honor the earth while protecting our bodies. There will be lots of information for new gardeners including an Introduction to Permaculture presented by Eric Toensmeier, author of Perennial Vegetables, and last year’s inspiring keynote speaker. Daniel Botkin of Laughing Dog Farm will talk about extending the harvest season, without using additional heat.

I’ll be there with my worm farm and information about worm farming, otherwise known as vermiculture.  Worms can eat compost all year long, and their castings (worm manure) are a valuable fertilizer for all plants.

The Feeding Soil, Self and Soul symposium will be held on March 21 from 9 to 1:30 pm, at Frontier Regional High School in South Deerfield. The cost for the day is $25 or $15 for the keynote speech by Messervy alone.  Refreshments will be on sale, also locally produced items. For more information and to register for the Spring Symposium logon to the Master Gardener website, www.wmassmastergardeners.org or call Rae Davis at 625-0168.


 March 7, 2009

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