Interview: Sarah Kinbar of Good Garden Ideas

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Welcome to another edition of our interview series. Today we have the pleasure to feature Sarah Kinbar, a gardener and blogger of Good Garden Ideas. Sarah made this website to collaborate with other and share their stories so that they can discover new ideas for designing, planting and enjoying gardens. Her website is full of great tips to help you make your yard beautiful.

good garden ideas

Sarah’s website: goodgardenideas.com

Facebook: /thegoodgarden

Twitter: @thegoodgarden

Favorite plant: I like palms. And cycads. And grasses. Hard to narrow it down. I’m really entertained by plantsarethestrangestpeople.blogspot.com, which highlights the unique characteristics of houseplants.

Hi Sarah, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. Can you tell my readers a little about yourself?

My mother always kept a garden, probably because she grew up with a garden. She’s from Amsterdam, and her family had a little cottage in the country with a garden. When I was a kid, we never had anything elaborate, but my mom always had planters of herbs and flowers going, and bulbs, among other things depending on where we were living.

Now she has one of the most beautiful gardens in the country, in my opinion, and she blogs about it on my site: goodgardenideas.com/mymothersgarden.

I ended up becoming a floral designer. I was studying business and economics in school, and just couldn’t get into it. So I dropped out and landed at a small floral kiosk in Harrisburg, PA. My boss Patrick was inclined to come to work in bike shorts and a fur coat, which is when I knew the world of plants and flowers was definitely for me. Over the next five years I learned a lot about floral design on the job, and loved working with my hands, but ultimately needed to go back and get my degree, which I did, studying English.

After graduating, I took a job with Garden Design magazine. I was lowest on the totem pole, and worked my way up to editor-in-chief over the next five years. Garden Design was amazing because I saw probably thousands of gardens. Seeing gardens around the world, and reading them as meaningful expressions, texts that speak of the human dialogue with nature, is an amazing gift to recieve. What a job! Translating all that for 800,000 readers is the work of a lifetime, and it was wonderful.

Last year, the company that owns Garden Design moved the magazine from the Winter Park office to the New York office. It was a devastating transition for those of us that were deeply attached to working on the magazine, but now that I’ve gotten used to it, the frontier of the web is a welcome territory to engage and pursue. I launched goodgardenideas.com in September 2010, and it has been great fun to connect with a new group of readers.

What is one thing that you see people are doing wrong with their landscaping?

When it comes to design, I don’t think there is such a thing as right or wrong. People should do what they want to do. If that means copying their neighbors, having a lawn, and being completely inconspicuous, fine. But it’s nice to see gardeners get adventurous, and employ design principles that complement houses and neighborhoods more than the average yard. Luis Llenza in Ft. Lauderdale does really cool neighborhood gardens for “normal” houses that aren’t mansions. He takes these suburban lots and using modern design techiniques and really awesome tropicals, transforms them into really special gardens. For example, he’ll plant a bed beside the driveway with hundreds of sansevarias. The repetition is eye-catching, and he uses varieties that you might never have seen before. You’ll then find a big patch of another type of sansevaria, something bigger, and variegated, over by the pool. The visual theme carries through the garden.

What is something that easy and inexpensive you can suggest to homeowners to spruce up their yards?

Rip up the front lawn and replace it with a low-growing groundcover that doesn’t require irrigation. It looks more beautiful, it gets people talking, and it makes your yard unique.

One other idea: create a focal point by placing a gigantic planter in the back yard, with a flowering or fruit tree in it.

Either of these moves is simple, and much less expensive than re-doing the whole yard. But these are bold moves that make a statement and create instant beauty.

What resources (blogs, books, websites) would you recommend to someone who’s new to the landscaping arena?

There’s a landscape architecture firm in Washington,D.C., called Oehme, van Sweden, and their work is very important to me. The gardens they design have paved the way for new ways of thinking about beauty in the garden, good ways of using plants and garden decor. James van Sweden’s book, The New American Garden, is a must-read for anyone who is dabbling or diving into landscape design.

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