March 29th, 2008
Kate’s Gentle Plea

Bouldin Creek cottage
2008-03-29. Bouldin Creek cottage with front lawn of wildflowers.

Thanks to all of you who wrote such sweet things about my wild garden. I’m very lucky to live in an equally wild neighborhood where unconstrained exuberance is celebrated rather than regulated. I took some photos today of some of my neighbors’s gardens so that you can see that mine fits right in.

Bouldin Creek cottage
2008-03-29. Bouldin Creek cottage with larkspur and decorated car.

In particular, Vive’s comment struck a chord. I didn’t approach making a garden with any set ideas; that is, I didn’t have a vision starting out. Unlike Margery Fish I didn’t really set out to make a garden at all. I just liked puttering around in the dirt among the plants. The concepts I developed over time grew along with the garden, grew out of the garden. They are still evolving. I use this blog a lot to work out my ideas, to mull them over out loud. Discussing my ideas with all of you helps me clarify my thoughts. Visiting your gardens via your blogs inspires and encourages me.

I was a writer long before I was a gardener. So I’ve actually given much more thought to the problems of finding (and keeping) my voice as a blogger. However, nothing I’ve ever written has matched the eloquence and good sense of the post written by my friend Kate in her Gentle Plea for Chaos.

I write this post specifically to my readers at Blotanical who will not find Kate’s post there among the Picks because I want you to know that although Blotanical is a wonderful introduction to the world of garden bloggers, there is an entire universe beyond it. Take this moment and click through to read Kate’s post. Now isn’t that something to think about? I can’t think of much to add, except maybe…

Find your vision. Celebrate who you are. And be.

Bouldin Creek cottage
2008-03-29. Bouldin Creek cottage with fairy circle.

by M Sinclair Stevens

17 Responses to post “Kate’s Gentle Plea”

  1. From Carol:

    Just found your blog through Blotanical. Love the colors; love the garden art. So original! You seem to be a gardener of like mind. Hope you will stop in for a visit.
    Terra Nova Design

    I need to clarify. The photos are of other gardens in my neighborhood which I admire. Annie pointed out that I lived in a neighborhood where it was easy to pursue my style of wild gardening. And I wanted to agree and show you all that rather than stick out like a sore thumb, my wild garden fits right in here in South Austin. — mss

  2. From our friend Ben:

    Thanks, MSS! Great post, great photos, and great lead to Kate’s blog. Looks like you’re having a lot of fun with your yard!!!

    My pleasure. — mss

  3. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    After reading this and your other post and seeing all these pictures, I’m of a mind to just fly down there this week to see for myself. Wait… I AM flying down there this week… Can’t wait.

    We can hardly wait. — mss

  4. From bill:

    Austin is weird!

    I like that first garden a lot. Maybe because it reminds me of my grandmother. It’s great that it “fits right in” your neighborhood because a lot of places it just wouldn’t.

    I feel sad when people think Austin is weird. Not because I’m against weirdness but because I’ve lived here so long that I forget that it’s not like this everywhere–not even everywhere in Austin. — mss

  5. From kerri:

    Stifling individuality with too many rules and regulations in a neighborhood is a shame, and you’re lucky to live in such a laid back area.
    I agree with your description of Kate’s post. She spoke her mind gently and well.

    Our gardens reflect our personalities and that’s what make blogging so much fun…we not only learn about planting and growing, we get to know each other.

    Celebrating our individuality is what this should be all about. I love your last line 🙂

    Laid back. That’s Austin. My street appeared in the penultimate scene of “Slacker”. — mss

  6. From Diana - Austin:

    MSS- I love that natural flow of your neighborhood with all the wildflowers and fairies. And thanks for sending me to Kate’s. I hadn’t gotten to read her blog in a few days and it was a great one. I, too was a writer first, then a gardener, and now a blogger. I do it for my own personal pleasure, and part of that pleasure is reading other blogs and sharing in this community. Feeling free to express myself and do my own thing is what makes this so fun, as is seeing how other people share their passion. Thanks for reminding us that puttering and evolving is o.k.

    Well, you’re a designer and I don’t mean to slight that approach. I’ve often wished that I could be more organized and focused. I’m always stumped by that first question in the design books, “What’s your goal for your garden?” I think it started as an escape from hours spent behind the computer. I spend a lot of time in the garden not doing much–just wandering around. — mss

  7. From Curtis:

    I love how the garden art goes with that door. Kate’s gentle plea was a wonderful read. I found your blog via Kathy on Twitter.

    Thanks for telling me that. You must the first person who has come to my blog via Twitter rather than the other way around. — mss

  8. From Annie in Austin:

    What strikes me as funny, MSS, is that the more laid back gardens are in the middle of the Austin area, which almost seems counterintuitive. Who expects meadows so close to downtown? Some of the stricter HOA’s are in neighborhoods that were ranches with canyons just a few years ago.

    Neither your garden nor Pam’s garden would be allowed in many of them.

    I linked to Kate, too – she’s very eloquent.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    I think it depends on the neighborhood. Until the 1990s, Bouldin Creek was the poor cousin to Travis Heights. It was ethnically and culturally diverse. Exuberantly decorated Mexican-style yards are common. Only a couple of blocks from the razed Armadillo World Headquarters, many of the small cottages were rented by musicians, artists, and students. Keeping up suburban lawns was never their priority. — mss

  9. From deb:

    I agree completely. Mine is almost total chaos and I love it. Wish I could be there this weekend, but my mg seminar is the same day.

    We wish you could be here too. At first, Spring Fling seemed like a reunion of old friends. But there are so many new bloggers (at least new to me) coming that it’s more like a big debutante party. — mss

  10. From Jamie Boyle - Hypertufa Gardening:

    Love your blog and the excellent photographs of beautiful flowers. My father will love to see this. Good job and I also love the garden art as well.

    Some nice hypertufa garden art would look nice in those beds. So you think you’ll try it this summer?

    Thanks for visiting my Hypertufa Blog as well.


    Jamie Boyle
    Hypertufa Gardener

    I love your blog. Hey, everyone! If you are at all interested in hypertufa go visit Jamie’s blog. It’s fascinating. Yes, I think I’ll try to do a project this summer. — mss

  11. From Aiyana:

    What beautiful photos and a lovely post. I’m off to read the link.

    Thanks. — mss

  12. From Karen, Wales:

    I enjoyed your post very much –
    “Find your vision, celebrate who you are. And be”
    Beautifully put. The gardens you show are lovely.

    Reading everyone’s comments on this post has made me want to bicycle around my neighborhood taking photographs of this wonderful place before it is all bulldozed into conformity. — mss

  13. From Gotta Garden:

    What fun to live in such a neighborhood! What joy to have such freedom of expression! May you live, thrive and continue to be renewed and inspired by your garden and those around you.

    I’m fascinated by your cilantro! (And other things, too.) I love letting things have their way.

    All the best for the big weekend. Should it become a tradition of sorts, perhaps I can make it one year. I’ll look forward to reading about it!

    As to dear Kate…she hit it right on the head, I think. (Of course, she would.) Long live our differences…i.e., in style, in focus, in topic, in gardening, in whatever…sameness is dull. There are so many rules in our lives as it is, the last place I want them is in my garden and on my blog. I turn to gardening (in all forms) for a respite from the world.

    Well now…I think I will enjoy more of your wonderful pictures and be inspired. All the best.

    I do live in a wonderful neighborhood. I’m so glad that all of you remind me to appreciate what I often take for granted. — mss

  14. From Margaret Powis Austin:

    I really liked your discussion about attitudes to garden making, both yours and those around you. I try to balance the nature part of gardening with the planning/designing part and I sense you do the same. My interest stems from that interaction between the garden doing what it is going to do and my effort to promote my ideas within it. Needless to say what finally happens is a something neither the plants or I planned on.

    The part that does confuse me is how much notice to take of my neighbor’s yards. I don’t want to integrate my garden into a street look (which is pretty monoculture, St Augustine grass, Cedar Elms and lovely old Live Oaks). But I also don’t want my garden to appear as if someone cut out a picture of an entirely different garden and pasted it into the street. Gradually I hope my compromises are working out. I really liked your post and look forward to more photos of your garden, as your ideas change. Ooh that sounds as if I don’t like it now, which would be untrue, just that I love seeing how gardens evolve.

    By the way to see a wildflower meadow that is not planned go to the intersection of 45th street and Bull Creek and walk behind the TexDot building. At present the meadow is awash in blue-eyed grass, pink missouri primroses and bluebonnets with interesting grasses thrown in.

    That’s an interesting point of discussion. I think more posts are needed. I’m in such a habit of living in a neighborhood where the houses and yards are a complete mish-mash that it would be difficult to figure out how one should fit in. I’ve never given much thought to it other than to avoid conspicuous consumption. But most of the other Austin garden bloggers live in neighborhoods where the suburban lawn rules. I will have to pay more attention to how they fit in or stick out. As for that intersection…isn’t it the one with the tremendous stand of wild grape hyacinths? — mss

  15. From Jean Ann:

    Until I read your blog, it never occured to me that a city or neighborhood would regulate someone’s garden. In Portland, people plant all kinds of things in both front and back. It is not uncommon to find a front yard layout that looks like a traditional backyard layout. These pics are beautiful…

  16. From Steve Mudge(Fort Worth):

    On the subject of integration of the front yard with the neighborhood–we tore out half the lawn for our new landscape and left half to still conform a bit with the neighborhood (although we likely will still never water it!). The middle way I guess. Fort Worth is a different mindset in general than Austin and we don’t want to get too wild in our fairly tame neighborhood. Our backyard is all over the place and gives us plenty of chaos to inhale.
    The West Side seems to be changing to the progressive though so maybe in a few years we’ll tear the other half of the lawn out!

  17. From Yolanda Elizabet:

    You live in a wonderful neighbourhood MSS where there are no silly rules about how your garden must look. Who would want a boring front lawn if they could have a glorious wild meadow instead as shown in your first pic. Not me, that’s for sure. It’s a pity that so many other gardeners in your city are so restricted by far too many, and often silly, rules.

    Re Kate’s post: amen!

    Enjoy your Spring Fling, I’m with you all in spirit and perhaps one day in the flesh too.

    Suburban Americans (as a whole) have a strange obsession with a lawn. I think it has something to do with pretending that reducing everything to the lowest common denominator is somehow democratic. — mss