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RI Archives: Style

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British Garden Authority Anna Pavord On Garden Style

By Brian Cruey

As the garden columnist for The Guardian and former editor of Gardens Illustrated, Anna Pavord knows what she’s talking about when it comes to gardens. She’s written two bestselling books on the subject — The Tulip and The Naming of Names — and was the recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society’s prestigious Gold Veitch Medal. If you’re lucky enough to score a ticket to Berkshire Botanical Garden’s upcoming winter lecture on Saturday, Feb. 13, you’ll be able to experience first-hand what this expert from across the pond can teach us about creating our own garden style — the topic of her talk.

I had a chance to speak with Pavord this past weekend and was able to ask her a few questions about the lecture and what we can expect.

What do you tell novice gardeners who are just starting out and may not know what kind of “style” they are looking for?

I would say don’t worry too much about style — worry about your plot: the sun, the wind, are there frost pockets? Examine the soil. Is it alkaline? Does it drain fast? The more you know about your plot, the greater your chance of success. If you’re starting to look at particular plants, look up where the plant comes from — its origins will give you a direct line as to what it might be wanting in your garden.

If you’ve moved somewhere new where there is already a garden, there might be things in it that make you shudder. But give it time. Give it a year to see what it can do, go into it with an open mind and allow your opinions to be altered.

Is there a particular plant that you think best describes your garden style?

Tastes change! I’ve fallen in love with a lot of different things over my 50 years as a gardener. I went through a kitchen garden phase where I was dedicated to growing things I could eat. Then I went through a tulip phase (which gave me a bestselling book). Now, I’m in a magnolia phase. I’ve moved into a new place where the soil is good for magnolias and I just found four new buds on a magnolia that hasn’t had any before, which made me very excited.

What is the most common mistake gardeners make when planning their gardens?

Thinking too much about what other people are going to think of them! As you get older, you care less about what people think. It’s incredibly important to create a world of your own that you want to live in, and the only thing that matters is that you think it’s beautiful. Follow your nose and do what pleases you. Ultimately, that’s all that matters.

What do you want people to leave this lecture with?

I want people to leave feel excited again about the business of gardening. The winter months are a perfect time to reawaken the anticipation that gardeners have for spring.

Berkshire Botanical Garden Winter Lecture with Anna Pavord:
Creating Your Own Garden Style

Saturday, Feb. 13 at 2 p.m.
Monument Mountain High School
600 Stockbridge Rd., Great Barrington, MA
$35 members; $45 nonmembers

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