The Veteran Landscape Designer Turned Late Bloomer

I got a late start on our vegetable garden. After a few weather delays and a too-short trip to Cuba (more on that later), we finally got it planted a couple weeks ago, about a month behind schedule. Which means that we missed the lettuces, one of my favorites.

I’m still fairly new to all of this. I’ve been fashioning gardens for years—everywhere we’ve lived in Bucks County, I’ve tried to create a seamless indoor-outdoor living environment—but last year was my first run at a vegetable garden. I was guided largely by a new friend whose horticulture knowledge turned out to be as deep as my wonder bean harvest. She told me what worked well and what didn’t in her own potted garden, but, naturally, there was still plenty I ended up learning by trial and error, like not to plant cucumbers and tomatoes next to each other.

This summer, we’re growing heirloom and cherry tomatoes, arugula, eggplant, Italian squash, lots of beets, and banana peppers, because I heard they can be frozen, and I’m game for anything that can carry us through the winter.

The setup is pretty traditional. Four L-shaped, raised beds form a rectangle. A large birdbath sits in the center, surrounded by all kinds of herbs. The classic aesthetic goes out the window with the fencing. It’s a temporary, eight-foot-tall mesh fence that’s a burden of necessity. The garden sits on top of an ancient water tank that we’re pretty sure is clay. So any digging around there needs to be done by hand. But I’ve still made it my mission this summer to erect a permanent fence, daunting as the prospect of it feels right now. It’s more to calm the designer in me than to fortify the garden against intruders. Mr. Gopher and Mr. Bunny were frequent visitors last summer. They were so cute, though, I didn’t really care.

Also on the agenda: A new shade garden by the entrance to the driveway. When we moved in seven years ago, the home—the entire property, really—was in total disarray. It wasn’t even that the landscaping was all wrong. It was buried under too much overgrowth and clutter to even know. The inside we cleared out and renovated in relative short order. The landscape design, though, has been more of a gradual undertaking, a new installation or two each summer, the upgrading of another. (I’ll get into how our outdoor living spaces came together next month.) But once I plant the ferns and Hostas for this shade garden, I think we may finally have arrived at our destination. On second thought, I just remembered the three bathrooms that need to be stripped down to their studs.