Shhh. Your garden may be saying a lot about you. Does it have immaculate edging, plants of uniform size and precise color coordination? Are there artistic elements such as statues, birdhouses and rustic benches? Or do you just plant what appeals to you wherever you can drop something into the soil?
Local gardening experts say that your garden can speak volumes about who you are and even what your lifestyle is like.
“A garden really is an extension of your personality. You get to express yourself,” said Serena Gillespie, co-manager of Cowiche Creek Nursery. It’s not so much a matter of a shy person buying pastel pansies or an outgoing person planting bright tiger lilies. It’s more a matter of the approach in planting the garden, she explained.
Andrea Altmayer, a Master Gardener with the Washington State University Cooperative Extension Program, agreed.
“Yes, absolutely, the garden may reflect your personality,”
A Type A person, for example, may be very exacting, planning everything out, planting trees precisely six feet apart, and keeping the garden very well trimmed and tailored. You may find someone with an altruistic nature leaving old plants as a bird habitat over the winter. Those with an artistic bent may take a more whimsical approach, incorporating repurposed objects and materials to create interest, she added.
Then there are sentimentalists (like me) who plant flower varieties that have been in the family garden for many years.
“Generationally, you can be attached to a memory, a person you loved or a time,” through flowers, Altmayer said.
Of course, there’s also the practical elements of how many people are available to tend the garden and how much time you have, pointed out Jenny Mansfield, who also is a Master Gardener. If someone lives alone and/or works long hours, there’s only so much time to spend planting and weeding.
“Everyone is so different and so unique,” she said. “A lot of us are trying to do what we physically can and as time allows.”
Sometimes, a garden may be the exact opposite of what you might expect, but that also can speak to a person’s personality, Gillespie said. She has seen people come into her garden center who are meticulously dressed and might be expected to want formal plantings, but, instead, they opt for a more informal “cottage garden” setting — perhaps as a way to relax from a hectic lifestyle.
“Some people want a cottage garden that’s got a little bit of everything packed in,” she said. “They want to feel comfortable and enjoy their garden.” Gillespie herself has a cottage garden.
“A reserved (or shy) person may feel comfortable to do bold colors,” as a bit of an outlet, she added.
However, at other times, a garden clearly announces insights into its cultivator.
Mansfield, whose garden has been included on a local garden tour, shows an artistic bent. A big believer in “recycle, repurpose and reuse,” her garden includes everything from metal water-trough planters and benches to an angel statue overlooking a small pet graveyard, a trellis made from a ladder, birdhouses, and a shed built from salvaged materials and adorned with old road signs. Plantings and accent items are arranged into “garden rooms” — or vignettes.
“You can make a wonderful garden for very few dollars,” she said.
Another person Mansfield knows has a garden style that is more “wild and wooly,” with unmowed grass, and vegetables, berries, vines and perennial flowers all planted together with “no particular design.”
Sometimes, a garden can also develop a personality of its own, Altmayer said.
Although she describes her own garden as “pretty relaxed,” she said that she needs to keep up with grooming to maintain some control over it. For example, a plant called “Obedient” really isn’t, and “can take over (the flower bed) if allowed to.”
Like other gardeners she knows, Altmayer cultivates a “riot of colors” in her garden, from witch hazel in January or February to fall roses and dahlias.
“If I look out and see all these colors, I’m happy,” she said.
Other people may want to follow the latest trends in flower colors, said Gillespie. “Like clothes, flowers have fads.”
This year, for instance, amethyst and yellow seem to be “on trend.” All you need to do is check YouTube and you’ll find the newest colors and styles for gardens and landscaping. Some people may change the look of their garden from year to year, perhaps keeping with trends or just “letting different parts of our personality come out,” Gillespie said.
In the Yakima Valley, “we spent so much time outdoors,” Mansfield noted. With a little help from the pandemic, “a lot of people are now viewing outdoor gardens and patios as part of their home.”
And, as a contrast to all of the pandemic restrictions that we have been living through, “I think people feel pretty free to express themselves in the garden,” Gillespie said.
Whatever garden style you choose, “you tend to do it the way your personality wants to do it,” Altmayer said. “Any way you do it, it’s what’s right for you.”