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Garden Dream Comes True

Linda Buchanan
Linda Buchanan lives and gardens in Pennsylvania.
What does it take to grow a prize-winning garden? A small piece of land, a little money and a lot of elbow grease. And most of all, vision.

Just ask Linda Buchanan, winner of our 2001 "My Garden Story" contest. Working mostly at night and on weekends because of her busy career, Linda has single-handedly transformed a quarter-acre yard into a series of intriguing garden vignettes. Although she didn't start with a formal plan, Linda knew just what she wanted before she broke ground.

"My goal was to replace the grass in order to create a landscape that would be beautiful twelve months of the year and that would bring nature and wildlife to my back door," Linda says.

Work One Section at a Time
When she moved into her house in 1987, her yard didn't have a single flowering plant.

"My yard was all red Pennsylvania shale," Linda says. "For each garden section, I had to use a railroad pick to remove 12 to 14 inches of rock and hardened clay. Then I replaced it with topsoil, compost, leaves, peat and manure."

Each year she has expanded her garden area by twelve to eighteen inches all the way around, creating distinct areas as she planted. Once she had enough garden beds, she built faux-cobblestone walkways to connect each section.

Keep the Momentum
One of Linda's garden vignettes showcases angels, one of her favorite ornamental themes. Water is another, as demonstrated by her three water gardens including a 300-gallon pool that she dug herself, complete with a waterfall and fish.

"I can hear running water when I stand anywhere in my yard," Linda says.

The water sustains birds and butterflies that frequent her elaborate plantings. "I live near the center of town and I never had wildlife visiting before. But last year I saw 18 different species of butterflies in my garden. Plus bird feeders, nesting boxes and birdbaths have rewarded me with a wonderful assortment of songbirds that frequent the yard year round."

The Garden as Canvas
Over 15 years of trial and error, Linda has built a garden that is in bloom for eight months of the year.

"The same garden will continuously change color, opening with yellow and purples during the spring, continuing with deep pink, white and lavender in summer, and closing with yellow, blue and purple in the fall."

Although each garden room is distinct, common threads of color blend each area together.

"Since I especially enjoy arranging fresh flower bouquets, perennial and annual plants are chosen with great care to provide appealing textures, sizes, colors and shapes to the bouquet. I apply this same principle in planning and planting my gardens."

And when flowers aren't in bloom, grasses, ground covers, container gardens, planters, statuary and whimsical ornaments keep the garden interesting.

And Finally...
There is no "Finally." Now that Linda's garden is beginning to resemble her dreams, she is looking at how to make improvements here and there. She constantly adds new plants, ornaments and hanging baskets.

"Part of the joy of gardening is unleashing your creativity by exploring different ways of expanding color and texture to the landscape year round," Linda says. "And part of the excitement of gardening is that there is always so much to learn."

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