Berkshire Garden Style: Roots and Shoots
Last week I came out of the woodwork; I started something...I want you to come along on this journey. I shared with you some thoughts about what I’ve created and what I want to create here at my home in the Berkshires. This week I want to give you a little more background. I want to share with you a little more about myself and my history so you can see where I’m coming from and where I’m going. Above all, what you’re about to read is authentically-me and authenticity is what is at the heart of gardening - Berkshire Style. Gardening, like farming, is a product of human intention and interference. Berkshire Garden Style acknowledges this, while delicately paving a path of symbiotic design. Authenticity is both the focus and backdrop of the Berkshire Garden Style. Additional elements which I’ll get to in a posting later on down the road include a sense of place, organic practices/natural elements and the intentional juxtaposition with the wild-unexpected.
Authenticity comes from being true to one’s beliefs and desires despite external pressures. My beliefs and desires root from my story which unfolds below. My story gives you an understanding of who I am and why I think it so important to create and share Berkshire Garden Style. My story began not in the Berkshires, but in the Pacific Northwest, on the Southern Oregon Coast. I am the daughter of two hard working individuals. My dad was a logger and my mom is a multi-talented, intuitive woman - master in kitchen, garden and all things magic. When I was very little my mom moved herself and me to the Berkshires - the place of mom’s roots - where our family descended from generations of hard working people. Direct descendents of Col. John Ashley of Ashley Falls, our ties to the Ashley family were broken as some members of our family were considered lesser in the eyes of aristocracy.
My formal education was never a high point. While I excelled in school, it failed to nurture me. I went out of doors instead to find nourishment and solace. I have always empathized with and learned more from plants than from the institution of education. By the age of 16, I decided that formal education was not going to fulfill, challenge or nurture me and I sought alternative pathways to knowledge. I learned the ins and outs of running a small business by helping my mom with her brainchild - the Laughing Crow and I continued to spend as much time outdoors as possible. I went on to complete my GED before entering Berkshire Community College as a Business Administration Major with a 4.0 to my name after freshman year. Faced with the decision between a full-time degree course and the need to work to pay bills, I dropped out of college and went to work for Pat Parkins. Mom’s friend Pat had a business called Gardens of the Goddess, and I immediately fell in love with the work. I loved working hard and making things grow.
After a few years, I had a yearning to return to my birth place and spend time getting to know my dad so I moved back to Southern Oregon in my early 20s. My dad taught me how to mow lawns, prune and back up a trailer-valuable skills that stick with me today. While living in Oregon, I missed the Berkshires, my mom and the community. I continued to seek outside spaces amongst the trees and plants to soothe my emotions. Eventually my pining for home, the sense of my belonging in Berkshires and the prospect of more opportunities, brought me back here.
It was in the Shopper’s Guide that I viewed an advertisement for a horticultural apprenticeship. That was the beginning of a long lasting professional relationship with my mentor, friend and ‘other mother’, Barbara Bockbrader. The apprenticeship formally lasted nine years during which I learned the specifics of garden and floral design, how to grow food and flowers, interior plantings, perennials and pruning.
As my knowledge grew so did my desire to share and influence. During my apprenticeship I took on several of my own clients which allowed me to apply my skills and begin to experiment with what I had learned from Barbara. My horticultural education continued with completion of all three levels of the horticultural certificate program at the Berkshire Botanical Gardens. Throughout my career I have been held and embraced by the horticultural community of the BBG and Barbara and her peers. Today I now teach on the BBG’s horticulture certificate program, I am on the horticultural advisory committee and I run a successful horticultural and garden design company- Viridissima.
Through my work as owner and head gardener at Viridissima, authenticity is at the forefront of my creation of the Berkshire Garden Style. This style comes from layers of knowledge, encounters and experiments. Such layers - all experiences I have had over the years, inform the way in which I stay true to myself when faced with external and sometimes competing forces. How do I stay true to the land, to the plants and to the wildness that is the Berkshires while at the same time creating something of lasting beauty to be enjoyed by all who are involved in gardening, be you a homeowner with a garden, or simply a passerby? Stay tuned...