Tammy Weiss is a master gardener. She lives with her husband, son and their six rescue dogs.

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Downsizing the Garden
by Tammy Weiss       #Containers   #Garden Profile   #Urban Gardening

This long-time gardener needed to have a garden equal in beauty and ease of care. Here is how she turned a standard patio into a cozy garden oasis.

Left: Seasonal color and texture are integral parts of any garden planting, as is appropriate lighting. Small solar lanterns, which are placed among the tall grasses, ensure adequate lighting year round.
Right: Planters placed in clusters along the wall are filled with annuals and scented herbs. Using planters allows Shirley to “rearrange the garden” to suit her, or the plant’s, needs.

Gardening and downsizing: two words that are rarely, if ever, used in the same sentence. However, Shirley Gibson has taken the transition from a large splendid home with formal cutting, floral and vegetable gardens, groomed orchards with planned fields filled with native plantings, to a smaller villa style “Visiting Garden.” A senior residential community, where homes have limited space for gardens and patios, was where she graciously invited me to interview her. 

Succulents in a container look like a mini landscape.

At 94 years of age, Mrs. Gibson is a member of the Garden Club of America, a retired horticultural judge emeritus, and presently is an active member and past president of a local garden club in her town. She still finds the time to work almost daily in her garden. Being socially active as well as having a deep working knowledge of gardening plays a large part in the influence of her choices of plants. Most of her plantings are chosen for their aesthetic qualities. “Sometimes,” Mrs. Gibson told me with a twinkle in her very bright blue eye, “I put them in just because I like them.” 

In light of Shirley’s busy lifestyle, she desired a garden equal in beauty and ease of care. Tucked away in a senior living development, Mrs. Gibson took her rather standard patio and made it into a small and cozy garden oasis, which is equally inspiring and inviting. Achieving this level of garden quality may seem as though it might take a great deal of planning; however, anyone with basic plant interest and knowledge could achieve a similarly styled successful garden.  

Left: Growing against a warm western-facing brick wall, Mrs. Gibson’s ‘Roma’ and cherry tomatoes produce in abundance and safety away from ground pests and foraging animals.
Right: Nasturtium and parsley spill from this raised planter.

She decided that having a raised-bed garden would reduce her hours of bending over while working in her garden. She also uses planters for smaller plants, such as herbs, which could be moved around throughout the season to the best parts of the garden where growth production would be at its peak. The final result was a smaller container garden where planters burst with fragrant herbs and heirloom tomatoes filled with freshness and flavor. Plants tumble over each other in a waterfall of color over the raised-bed edges while pole beans twine upward toward the clear deep blue sky. Chard grows in deep, lush mounds scattered about the garden. All of this is within arm’s reach and all of it is grown with little daily care and maintenance.

Shirley was quick to remind me that gardening should be pleasurable and relaxing as well as a reflection of who you are.

Left: Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis) is an easy-care perennial with personality.
Right: Established pink Knock Out roses planted at the bases of white pine trees provide a dense privacy screen as well as weather and wind protection for the garden. Wave petunias and sweet potato vine set in large planters, with their brilliant contrasting leaves, bring the visitor’s eyes up towards the modern art sculpture.


A version of this article appeared in Ohio Gardener Volume 5, Number 1.
Photography courtesy of Tammy Weiss and Martha Marsh.



Posted: 06/16/16   RSS | Print


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