The Garden Designer’s Roundtable: Romance



What makes for a romance?  An attraction that cannot be denied.  An attraction that evolves from the excitement generated by the hope that a relationship might lead to a steadfast commitment.  The romance suggested and generated by the possibility of love-who hasn’t experienced it?  Gardeners romance their gardens-meaning they seek to establish a  relationship with their environment, their love of plants,  and their property to a mutually satisfying end.  I never met a gardener that was not committed to the long term.  However, mutually satisfying outcomes are rare.  Things go wrong.  Plants die.  Taste’s change.  More than rare, garden outcomes that stir the heart are short lived.  Ephemeral.  This makes the possibility of true romance all the more desirable.


Nature-the object of every gardener’s sincere affection.  On occasion, that love is returned.  Sometimes I am face to face with it in such a way that takes my breath away.  But more often than not, nature has another idea in mind.  I have had my hopes dashed more often than I care to recall.  The weather here last spring was anything but.  All of the efforts made to protect the spring flower buds-spurned.  There are less dramatic challenges to one’s love for the garden.  A lack of rain-or too much.  The neighbor’s kid or the neighborhood rabbit who snaps all the lily buds off.  The specimen evergreen that is not so happy where you have planted it.  The effort it takes to improve the organic content of the soil.  I suppose the spring will eventually come when I think I’ve had enough-but it hasn’t happened yet. 


Anyone who gardens long enough realizes that a romance has its ups and downs.  There are on occasion those perfect moments. An hour or a day or a season that enchants and utterly satisfies.  They could be very simple, and not so readily apparent to a casual observer.  The sun emerging after a spring rain.  A quiet hour spent weeding.  Watching a hummingbird feed.  How the roses look just before they bloom.   


That June day several years when the roses were blooming like I had never seen them before-heart stoppingly romantic.  That summer day when all is good enough in the garden such there is time to take time to enjoy it.  There are those perfect moments that come when you least expect them, and are over before you know it.  That fairly accurately describes my relationship with nature.  Never easy, and often times irritating and disappointing.  Despite all that does not work,  a life without a serious relationship with nature has no appeal to me. 


This cold windy and snowy February moment that Milo and I shared in the garden-satisfying indeed.  I am sure the other members of the Garden Designer’s Roundtable have an equally personal romance with nature-be sure to read on.


Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

David Cristiani : The Desert Edge : Albuquerque, NM

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.


  1. “Perfect moment” and “quiet hour spent weeding” – I know those and want more. Not the obvious romantic, and yet they should be. Thanks!

  2. A fine romance, with no kisses
    A fine romance, my friend this is
    We should be like a couple of hot tomatoes
    But you’re as cold as yesterday’s mashed potatoes
    A fine romance, you won’t nestle
    A fine romance, you won’t wrestle
    I might as well play bridge
    With my old maid aunt
    I haven’t got a chance
    This is a fine romance

    A fine romance, my good fellow
    You take romance, I’ll take jello
    You’re calmer than the seals
    In the Arctic Ocean
    At least they flap their fins
    To express emotion
    A fine romance with no quarrels
    With no insults and all morals
    I’ve never mussed the crease
    In your blue serge pants
    I never get the chance
    This is a fine romance

  3. Hi Deborah,
    How beautifully you delinate from the first, the fickleness, the disappointments and yet the stolen moments and shere elation which the cruel mistress ‘the garden’ offers its gardeners!

  4. Spot on, Deborah. Not so different, really, from our significant human relationships, no?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Jocelyn, Not so different-you are so right! A garden that makes a space for people-a really good garden. Good to hear from you. Thanks, Deborah

  5. Lovely descriptions, these. Also, the moment when a summer garden becomes immersed in the drama of a thunderstorm. That quiet moment standing behind the screen door, watching the bricks grow dark and wet.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Suzanne, every gardener has their moments. Like you, I have watched the rain wet down the brick with pleasure. This is so much a part of the experience of gardening. Every gardener’s experience of nature is individual, and usually intense. Thanks for writing, Deborah

  6. Your romance with nature would be filled with less disappointments if one stopped trying to control nature, the same as with humans =) Raising expectations of perfect rosebushes will make you blind to the beauty that is always there. It sure sheds a light on the more negative aspects of romance, as opposed to living in, and appreciating, reality. Dreams and romance and hope are the essential forces in gardening, but they can also if left untempered make it a bad experience.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Louise, your comments are very well taken. Any force untempered can go bad. Yes, there is always beauty there-you are right. Thanks for writing, Deborah

  7. I enjoyed getting to know the romantic side of you Deborah, you capture the passion of all gardeners so well. The photos are beautiful! I can almost see romance blossoming in each one. Great Post!

Leave a Reply to Robert Webber Cancel reply