Gardening Teacher as Gift Item


by SusanFathersday_2
Call it consulting, coaching, mentoring or teaching – I don’t care.  But when Mike O’Grady’s wife read about us in Washington Magazine she decided to give him some garden coaching for Father’s Day – smart idea, huh?  She hired me via email, including a nice note about liking the sustainable approach she found on my website. 

See, Mike knows a lot about the benefits of trees and is determined to increase their numbers on his property.  He’s planting for posterity – his kids’ and the planet’s.  And he knows how harmful conventional American lawn care is to the environment and wants nothing to do with it.  He even composts!  But when it comes to gardening itself – making the combination of plants around your home function well and look good – that’s something he’d never researched.

So here’s what we covered in an hour and 15 minutes.

  • How to beef up the shade-challenged lawn organically.
  • How to create edges between lawn and borders using Victorian trenches.
  • How to deal with major weed encroachment from all directions.
  • How to do corrective pruning on an assortment of shrubs.
  • Suggestions about where more plants could be added around the property, and which ones.
  • Much about mulch.
  • Even more about how to water.

In response to "Anything else you’d suggest?" I got gushy about oakleaf hydrangeas, encouraging him to plant three of them in a spot that’s very visible from the patio.  "Year-round impact!" I exclaimed more than once, I’m afraid.  But I wanted to introduce the notion of buying plants for the sheer pleasure of looking at them, over and above their contributions to wildlife, air quality and water retention.  I wanted to introduce the retro notion that human enjoyment might count in this whole equation and why not treat yourself to some plants that’ll make you swoon?  You never know when that first swoon will turn into a consuming passion called gardening – eco-gardening, of course, but still gardening.   

So readers, what do you think it takes to turn a nature-lover into a nature-loving gardener, someone who buys perennials, gets into pruning, reads a 318-page book about composting?  Someone who occasionally swoons over the beauty he’s created in his very own garden.

Now because it’s almost Mother’s Day, I’ll remind readers that a loving son or daughter could also hire someone to teach their mother to garden, whether for Mother’s Day or just because.  Here’s my 2006 story about the "movie star" client Amy mentioned recently in her newspaper column.


  1. This post is so timely for me, I’m about to do a new bed and have seen the Victorian trenches on TV and thought they looked so nice and wondered how it was done. Also, I’m SO with you on oakleaf hydrangeas – my favorite shrub in the world. I have 3 and am seriously considering another one, and I only live in a typical suburban sized lot. Can you have too many? 🙂

  2. What fun for both of you! Victorian trenches? I didn’t know there was a name for that which seems so logical. I have ‘Victorian trenches’ everywhere and didn’t even know it! Thanks for giving them a name I can pass along. I can hear myself saying “Yes, that is the Victorian Trench approach to edging.” I will add, “I learned this technique from garden coach, Susan Harris.” See, you are coaching from afar!

Comments are closed.