New Year, New You: Out-Garden Yourself!

GUEST BLOG:  Jocelyn Wilkie has written our first blog post for 2017 from her winter home in Indiana.  A passionate gardener and writer, Jocelyn is best known for her amazing planter creations.  We look forward to seeing her back working with us in THE SHE SHED later this spring.

To begin the year, I thought I’d start out with the obligatory ‘New Year, New Me’ post. Typically these are made in the form of a hashtag in the Twittersphere (#newyearnewme), or are laid on top of a stunning landscape photo with an inspiring message; however, after a 2 week circulation, these are forgotten and followed by a depressing slide back into the winter blues and post-holiday funk. The good news is those people hashtagging and backsliding don’t garden like I do! While it’s easy to get down in the soul-crushingly long days of darkness and cold with no ‘exciting’ holidays until Easter, this is actually one of the most creative times of the year. Discovering what is possible in the gardening world, and what you are capable of creating, calls for long evenings scrolling through photos and boards, spreading out visions on piles of papers, and laying out paint chips to visualize colour schemes. 

As a tech savvy gardener (the best kind to be), there are no limits to what we can create in our gardens: Pinterest boards, blogs, Youtube videos, and the like describe and document our ideas for all to see. My winter months are best spent looking over my photos of previous years’ planters, researching the newest plants and colour combos, while snacking on the last of my autumn harvests. While the poinsettias are drooping and the winter greenery planters are looking a bit haggard in their ice beds, reminiscing about what the coming season can look like gets my creative juices flowing.

For me, this is not the time to spend reorganizing a current garden; the perennials are best herded in the late fall when you can really see what’s in each bed. I believe it is time to focus on either completely empty beds or annual pots. A bonus of this is that they are likely stored in a warm spot and not buried in snow! To begin, I figure out how many areas I have to work with (this number always doubles for me, and there is only a little bit of shame in lying to myself to ‘budget’ before tax season). More often than not, I have about 10 planters that get filled at various points of the spring and summer season. Once I know the general size, shape, and colour of pots that I am working with, my imagination can run buck-wild (and boy does it ever!) 

-Black Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas), Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), Million Bells (Calibrachoa), Watermelon Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides),  Dusty Miller (Centaurea cineraria), Vinca (Vinca maculata)

-Black Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas), Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), Million Bells (Calibrachoa), Watermelon Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides),  Dusty Miller (Centaurea cineraria), Vinca (Vinca maculata)

When I start the creative process, I read hundreds of articles on trending colours, plants, and materials. Each year, Pantone chooses a Colour of the Year, which simultaneously sets the new and mimics the current tone throughout many industries (you’ll often notice the same colour trending in plants that walks the runways). This is by no means the way anyone has to go for colour, especially if it clashes with your themes or house colours; however, the Colour of the Year will be a common colour in garden centres, and will have the newest designs centred around it.  Check out The She Shed's Pintrest board for some amazing combinations using Greenery by clicking the Pintrest icon at the top, right side of this page.  

Fortunately, 2017’s colour is called Greenery: “a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature’s greens revive, restore and renew”. This shade is very aptly named, as a growing trend the past few years has been textures. Hard, soft, feathery, leathery, veiny, and velvety, textures can pack a real punch in any plant setting, and are often achieved through greenery or non-flowering plants. These plants are incredibly easy to match, clash with almost nothing since they are a neutral, and are easy to locate both in a garden centre and a natural environment. With a colour like Greenery, choice flowers that are often overlooked can be highlighted, plants can easily blend in with a more natural landscape, and pots can pack a bigger punch of colour.   

With this in mind, I can Pinterest my nights away! While writing this I have so many ideas floating through my head, with colours and flowers exploding like fireworks. I can grab my paint chips, and pair up the colours, textures, and plants coming to mind: pops of brightly coloured Strawflowers and Lantana with Creeping Jenny for crazy textures; dark Persian Shield with the ever-favourite lime Potato Vine for a moody atmosphere; and showcasing my personal favourite Coleus, ‘Watermelon’. 

I set up documents for each space, making lists of my favourite colours, plants, and textures. I save photos of each flower and the specific name as well as the general colour. After deciding what sizes I can find the plants in at garden centres, I make a master list of all the materials I will need. Through years of trial and error, I have discovered I can often save money by purchasing a 6-pack and splitting it between two or three planters rather than buying individual 4” pots for each space. This also lets me add in more items overall, meaning I can strategically place Dusty Miller and the like to really make other plants pop. With each document, I can see exactly what I need for each planter, what my colours are going to look like, and where I intend to place everything while allowing for changes to easily be made. With that done, I am set to shop once I’ve gotten someone taller than me to wipe the snow off my windshield and chip the ice out of my tires!