Residential PPN Spring 2008 Newsletter
Red Ink, Green Joy
by John Black, ASLA
On my soggy drive home today, talk radio was filled with opinions about the pending "economic stimulus package" and the looming recession driving it. Lots of doom and gloom, both here and abroad. And it got me thinking (as most things do) about gardens and the people who live with them.

On the one hand, a well-designed garden is a true luxury: It doesn't shelter us from these incessant rains, it doesn't furnish us with cotton or wool to spin into garments. It costs money to design, money to install, and money to maintain. The average tax rebate from our government will be something like $1600, which will hardly buy you a yard full of gorgeous plants, much less my design fees to wrap them up into a dramatic and fabulous package. Let's face it, you need a custom garden about as much as you need quilted teddy bears on your bath tissue.

On the other hand, a well-designed garden may be an absolute necessity, especially in darker times. It can save you money on energy and water through intelligent planting design and efficient irrigation and lighting. It can lower your grocery bill by providing physical sustenance, i.e. delicious fruits and vegetables, every month of the year. But most importantly, it can bring you joy every day by creating an environment filled with vibrant colors, intoxicating scents, soothing sounds, bejeweled birds and butterflies, or those priceless spaces where your children can play or you can relax.


Image courtesy   Christian Fischer

So, what would I advise to someone who wants to upgrade their landscaping, but isn't sure now whether that's such a good idea? Obviously, I can't tell anyone how to prioritize their budget, and I certainly don't advocate going deep into debt with a landscaping project. But given that it is a short-term investment in your spirit as well as a long-term investment in your most significant asset, maybe — just maybe — a well-designed garden is a luxury you can't live without.

John Black, ASLA, is principal of Verdance Fine Garden Design in Palo Alto, CA. He can be reached at

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