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Gardening From the Inside Out

By Paul James

I know. It’s been colder than a well-digger’s foot lately, and for that reason I haven’t spent much time in the garden since the holidays. But I have been thinking a lot about my garden and trying to imagine what changes I want to make once the weather warms up. And thankfully, finally, it looks as though it’s about to do just that.

What I’ve been thinking about most is how to improve the look of my garden from the inside looking out, so that as I stare out the windows while sipping my morning coffee or evening cocktail, or even just stroll past a window, I’m pleased by what I see. Too often people focus exclusively on what their landscape looks like from the point of view of the street, looking back toward their house. That’s certainly important, but it’s only half the picture. Besides, we spend far more time looking out onto our gardens from our house than actually looking at our house!

For example, there’s a large bay window in my living room that looks out onto my back yard. The view is okay, but it’s missing something, and I’ve decided that what it’s missing is a small- to medium-sized tree with great fall color and a branching pattern that isn’t too dense so I can still see through it and beyond. So I’m going to plant a new – and very cool — Japanese maple called ‘Jack Frost.’ Problem solved.

I’ve got three large windows in my office that also provide a view of the backyard, but when I’m sitting at my desk and looking out all I see is sky. So I’m going to plant one Hinoki Cypress tree at the base of each window so that when I look out I’ll see green year ‘round with the sky as a backdrop. Another problem solved.

Then there’s the sliding glass door that leads out to my covered patio. I pass by the door dozens of time a day, and while the view out into the yard is nice, I’ve always felt it needed something. And the other day it hit me. It needs foreground in the form of two large, strongly vertical pots flanking the door in which I routinely or at least seasonally rotate shade tolerant plants – large ferns, various upright tropicals, maybe even yews if I decide on a more permanent solution. Once again, problem solved.

Given the forecast, it looks like I may be able to get back in the garden this weekend. But given that it’s still winter, I’m sure I’ll have plenty more time to solve my gardening problems from the inside looking out. I encourage you to do likewise. Enjoy your coffee…or cocktail.

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3 responses to “Gardening From the Inside Out”

  1. Kevin "The Bad Back Gardener" says:

    Yes, excellent thought. I live in western PA so winter is hitting hard and unlike your area Paul I can’t see me getting outside in the garden too soon. But I too find myself staring out my window looking at my 1/2 finished patio/ patio garden project envisioning what I want to do to finish it this spring/summer. Of course it seems that more chances I stare out imagining, I tend to change my mind. 🙂 Looking forward to keeping up with your articles Paul. Great stuff. From: Kevin "The Bad Back Gardener"

  2. Jo Rohrbacker says:

    I have the reverse problem in that I have 25 year old dwarf Burford hollies that are blocking half of the view out of my large front window. I would like to severely cut them back but I’m afraid it will destroy them. Thoughts?

    • Paul James says:

      In late February to the middle of March, you can cut the hollies back pretty hard — by at least half. You’ll get a lot of new growth as a result, but at least you’ll have a better view outside. And by the way, you can prune them every year to keep their growth in check.