July 14 2014 (11)Lots of people ask me about how I work with color in the garden.  How I decide on a color scheme for a container.  I have tried to write about my process, but I always have the nagging feeling that the discussion falls short.  Frustrating, this.  Though I know that any creative process cannot be quantified, or reduced to a step by step, I would teach, if I could.  I had occasion recently to view a video of a TED talk, thanks to Buck.  TED, if you are familiar, is a forum for presenting speakers who have something to say about ideas worth spreading.  Interested?  www.ted.com.   He keeps up better than I do-about what there is out there to learn.  Her had me listen to a talk given by Joi Ito.

July 14 2014 (12)In March of 2011 he was interviewing for the directorship of the MIT media lab. Late that night, a magnitude 9 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan, just several hundred kilometers from his wife, children and family.  In the terrifying hours that ensued, he discovered that he could not reach his family.  Nor was any government or news agency broadcasting any information about the damage to nuclear reactions by the earthquake. Frantic for information about his family, and for all the other families besieged by a disaster of this scale, he went to what he knew.  The internet.

July 14 2014 (5)In the following hours and days he contacted friends, hackers, scientists and families and put together a citizen science group he  called Safecast.  Over the next few months this group of amateurs with no scientific or governmental standing managed to invent a process by which to measure the radiation levels.  They put geiger counters on the ground; they measured the radiation.  They made available at no charge information that people could use.  Information for anyone for whom this earthquake had devastatingly personal consequences.

July 14 2014 (4)In his talk, he speaks eloquently of how his drive to get the information he wanted and needed was enabled by the internet.  The volume of information out there that can be accessed is limitless.  The internet allows people who have similar interests to meet digitally.  His discussion of how the internet makes it possible for citizens of certain groups to meet and solve problems which transcend any map or country interested me.  Most certainly passionate gardeners are citizens of a country all their own.

July 14 2014 (3)Joi Ito went on to discuss in simple terms the process of learning. What stood out to me the most?  “Education is something that someone else does to you.  Learning is something one does to/for oneself.”   I like this idea.  In fact, I like it a lot.  If anyone would ask me what was most valuable part of my college education, I would have to say that I learned how to learn about what interested me.  Of course the world has changed immeasurably since 1970.

July 14 2014 (14)One can access an seemingly limitless amount of information with a computer or a smart phone.  Anyone can learn whatever it is that they truly want to learn.  As far as developing a personal sense of how to user color in containers-I did not study this in school.  I was interested enough to learn. That learning process, which is still ongoing, and still of great interest to me, was all about the doing.  Plenty of color combinations did not work out so well. But their is as much to learn from those combinations that do not work out, as there is from those that do.

July 14 2014 (14)How people perceive color is very personal.  What appeals to my eye may not appeal to yours.  But that is not the point. Anything you see that interests or intrigues you may encourage you enough to learn what you need to know to express your own ideas. To understand what color relationships appeal to you as a gardener is all the fun of it.

July 14 2014 (15)Mr. Ito’s talk was very interesting.  Want to watch it for yourself?     http://www.wimp.com/wantinnovate/


  1. Starr Foster says

    Nice, Deborah. Thank you again for another interesting and encouraging post!

  2. No TED talk has ever disappointed me and I don’t listen to near as many as I should. I joke that my adult daughter is a TED evangelist because she is so passionate about them and is always spreading the word. I will look forward to viewing this one.

  3. Heather Burkhardt says

    The internet has been my number one greatest resource in learning about garden design. After that, actually bringing my ideas to fruition with its successes and failures is a second. Being able to look at many photographs of other peoples work and to figure out what I like has been amazing. Then learning what is the appropriate style garden for a locale another breakthrough. I certainly love Mediterranean style plantings, but realized that for my own personal home, cottage style is much more appropriate. Color is really fun. My current trend is keeping it cool with blues, purples and lilacs set off wtih grey foliage. Your container designs sparked a couple days of joyful, exhuberant internet searches as I became familiar with your work. That culminated with me subscribing to your blog. For me, you, this blog, and your designs are the best of the best.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Heather, it sounds to me like you are actively seeking out the resources available to you. Bravo! Best, Deborah

  4. Thank you for sharing your journey. I have spent 5 years avoiding planting containers for people. I am just now wrapping my mind around it and how to present their longevity and what to charge. I was just in Portland for the Garden Bloggers Fling and the gardens all had lovely containers full of fun combos. I decided part of my problem is I am over thinking it and not having fun. I love they way you put plants together in containers. The post with the elephant ears was so fun!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Laurin, any expertise implies a great effort to learn. No one can teach you about this. When you become really interested, you will educate yourself. Best, Deborah

  5. Stunning pictures.

  6. Mike Haynes says

    Like I’ve eluded to in previous posts, the best way to learn is by working along side a teacher in my opinion. I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity with you, even though you weren’t my “teacher.” Lessons like those were priceless and I’m forever grateful. Learning to garden, as in life, is an ongoing process. Thank you again!

  7. Lauren Hanson says

    The amount if knowledge I obtained while working for you was priceless. I will always be grateful for my time spent at DGW. You inspired me then and continue to today through reading your blog and seeing your work on Pinterest. I hope you are doing well.

Leave a Comment