A Garden In The Woods

I've been quite a night owl since Eric left to go on the road. Interesting how natural rhythms set in and evolve when one is left to their own devices. I've always loved the mornings, but there seems to be a relationship between loving the mornings and living in the middle of nowhere.

I notice that in my current setup, which is suburban, I'm not so drawn to waking up at dawn. Out in the wilderness, I love to slink out of bed, quietly prepare a hot cup of coffee and tiptoe outside. All sorts of wonders await! - ravens murmuring, deer grazing in serenity, blankets of fog prowling over the landscape... I can't think of a better way to start the day (or to live a life).

So during some recent night owling, I was doing a little "inspiration mining" online and ended up looking at beautiful images of gardens. Cottage gardens, kitchen gardens, vegetable gardens, and my favorite - gardens in the wilderness.

The juxtaposition of a human-created garden existing beside of or within a nature-created wilderness just feels enchanting to me. Maybe it goes back to all of those Russian fairytales I love, where a dark sojourn through the deep woods ends at a cozy cottage deep in the woods, and the plant-worshiping maidens, and witches, and old crones who tend to live there. 

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Above photo from Gardenista: "How to Grow Vegetables in the Middle of Nowhere"


Perhaps one of my favorite gardeners and woodland dwellers is the artist Tasha Tudor, who managed to take so many different threads of magic and weave them together into one wonder-filled life. 

One of my most treasured possessions is the book Tasha Tudor's Garden, full of beautiful photos and stories of Tasha's life. 

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Tasha Tudor’s poignant art has fascinated adults and children for decades. Her nineteenth-century New England lifestyle is legendary. Gardeners are especially intrigued by the profusion of antique flowers — spectacular poppies, six-foot foxgloves, and intoxicating peonies — in the cottage gardens surrounding her hand-hewn house. Until now we’ve only caught glimpses of Tasha Tudor’s landscape. In this gorgeous book, two of her friends, the garden writer Tovah Martin and the photographer Richard Brown, take us into the magical garden and then behind the scenes. As we revel in the bedlam of Johnny-jump-ups and cinnamon pinks, the intricacy of the formal peony garden, and the volumptuousness of her heirloom roses, we also learn Tasha’s gardening secrets. How does she coax forth her finicky camellia blossoms in the dead of a Vermont winter? How does she train that fantastic topiary to model for her artwork? How can she keep her crown imperials from tumbling in the winds? Tasha’s garden reflects a wealth of family lore, perfected through the years and years of working the soil. We may be dazzled by the beauty of the garden, but we come away from this book with practical ideas about improving our own plots of land. “Paradise on earth” is how Tasha describes her garden, and along with the flowers and the vegetables that provide her food, her paradise is filled with an enchanting menagerie — corgies, Nubian goats, cats, chickens, fantail doves, and forty or more exotic finches, cockatiels, canaries, nightingales, and parrots, which inhabit her collection of antique cages. Tasha’s beautiful watercolors and her enchanting anecdotes color this sublimely beautiful book.

Soon after this book pulled me deep into Tasha's world and refueled my spirit with beauty and wonder and creativity, I had to go deeper. I wanted to meet Tasha in real-time, to see her move through her days, to hear her talk and listen to what she had to say. 

After a lot of searching, I found a DVD that had been recorded of Tasha's daily life. This is another one of my most valued possessions to date. I passed it off to the herbalist Asia Suler, who I met years ago in Asheville, NC and then it became lost in the mail. sweet Asia took it upon herself to send me a new copy of the DVD, and I've held tight ever since. Whenever the inspiration coffers start to run low, it's one of my go to spirit remedies. 

If you are a lover of older times, of gardening, of animals, of quiet homesteads, and the beauty of nature, I simply cannot recommend this film highly enough. 

Take Joy! The Magical World of Tasha Tudor

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take Joy!
— Tasha Tudor

I've been fortunate enough in my few decades of life to have several gardens already, two of them in the middle of nowhere. (If you're interested in super productive vegetable gardening, in any location, check out this blog post!).

Most recently was in 2014 & 2015 on a 6-acre property in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. There, on the side of a mountain, we had a little treehouse and a garden that required trudging up a very steep trail. Soil had to be built, which we managed to do, and by the time we sold the place and moved on, there were poppies, herbs, butterfly bushes, vegetables, and worms squirming underfoot. It's a wonderful feeling to strengthen the biodiversity of an ecosystem, to leave a piece of land richer than you found it. 

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Years before that experience, I lived on 30 acres that were landlocked within 300 acres which belonged to a Zen Monastery in northern Kentucky. My neighbors were Vietnamese monks, a nice Amish family that would share popcorn with us on the porch in the evenings, and Wendell Berry and his sheep were just a few miles in the other direction. It was a wonderful time in my life, and it was the beginning of my gardening.

I decided on raised beds in a mandala pattern, pulling from a permaculture principle of using edge, and I used stones from the property to build the beds, which took many months of work.

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Above: My Jeep Cherokee full of stones to be hauled back to the cabin.

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Above: My old guardian dog, Gandalf, keeping an eye on me as I worked. R.I.P. Gandalf.

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Above: Hours, days, weeks, months spent stacking stones.

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Above: Slowly the design started to come together.

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Above: Until finally the mandala revealed itself.

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Above: I built an herb spiral beside the mandala raised beds.

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I had some interesting visitors pass by while I worked on that garden - a true perk of gardening in the middle of nowhere. Layers and layers of beauty. 


So, I've shared some of my wilderness gardening inspirations and experiences with you, do you have any to share with me? This sort of bucolic goodness is a balm to the spirit, I'd love to see your photos and hear your stories. Please add them in the comments below ~ 

Talk to you soon 

x Tiffany