My brain likes puzzles, and the longer I live in my own flip flops, the more I appreciate this as a bona fide creative strategy. Puzzle working is in my bones. My parents claimed I could work a wooden US puzzle when I was just three–and lickety split.

Me at three. Champion US Puzzle worker.
Me at three. Champion US Puzzle worker.

Now it’s my approach to everything, and especially fun in the gardening. Often it can be serendipitous, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a puzzle to be worked. Danger Garden recently gave me a sweet little Olive Tree. Does that mean I can call my style Plant-Driven? That sounds a little better than ADD, which is what I usually own up to.

An Olive Tree, just the ticket to kick off a Mediterranean Garden.
An Olive Tree, just the ticket to kick off a Mediterranean Garden.

I moved it around in the pot trying to decided where to put it, and finally settled on an area I hadn’t given much thought. It’s a strip of yard beside the driveway, opposite the Sea of Juniper. This area has its own smaller Body of Juniper, but there was plenty of room to plant the tree, and it’s a perfect location. (That Juniper should be quivering in its roots.) And now, I have a start for a Mediterranean Garden. I’m so excited to have a new area to contemplate.

Tell me I have kindred spirits out there, please.

When we first move to Flamingo Park, I entertained the idea of working with a designer before I did anything. And I still hope to one day, bank balance permitting. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have inspiring gardeners aplenty, fabulous nurseries, and  a plethora of accomplished designers. Designers know things, lots of things, Vanessa Gardner Nagel, Lauren Hall-Brehrens, Bob Hyland, and Darcy Daniels–to mention a few.

Danger Garden front yard. I'm close enough to stalk, I mean walk by regularly.
Gardeners aplenty, including Danger Garden. I’m close enough to stalk, I mean walk past regularly.
Look at this fabulous Genista groundcover. How could I not borrow that idea?
Look at this fabulous Genista groundcover. How could I not borrow that idea? Bet Danger would identify if asked nicely.

And I can always take a short ride to Heather’s house and check out her garden for inspiration. She said I could, anytime, I swear.

Heather's Garden, a short drive from Flamingo, and packed with great scenarios.
Heather’s Garden, a short drive from Flamingo Park, and packed with ideas worth borrowing.
Heather's Garden. How's this for sheer beauty.
Heather’s Garden. How’s this for genius and beauty?

More ideas worth borrowing.

Melianthus and Canna, of course, now that I see it at Heather's.
Melianthus and Canna brilliant together, of course, now that I see it at Heather’s.
Also from Heather's garden, how's this for a perfectly anchored corner?  Maybe she'll tell us which grass it is.
Also from Heather’s garden, how’s this for a perfectly anchored corner? Maybe she’ll tell us which grass it is. Update: Stipa barbata

Meanwhile, back to storyline. The problem at the start of big tasks, like the new garden, is that I’m fairly certain I can’t pull it off. I have no evidence to support this notion, but doubt persists. And that isn’t even exactly right. I never actually admit I’m embarking on a particular project. I begin every endeavor by backing in via dabbling. I might paint a test color on the wall, which leads to several colors–and then I have to do something–even if that means painting the adjoining room instead. Because I have to work the puzzle of how the color flows from room to room. Or I might straighten the edge on a beautiful piece of fabric, and then decide to sew up a pillow, or maybe a dozen. Or I’ll dig a hole to see what the soil is like, and boom! off to the nursery with a lightbulb moment.

Xera Nursery in the Rain-- last season. We could use some days like this now.
Xera Nursery in the Rain–last season. We could use some days like this now.

After we moved to our new house, my plant lust cohorts, Megan and Loree, would hear nothing of my claim that I didn’t know where to begin. With their encouragement and admonitions, I just started. And the crazy thing is, I’ve said this a million times to other people. Go outside. You’ll discover so much to do, you’ll have to give up eating and sleeping. I know for certain, my discoveries come in the process. Ideas follow action. And while thinking and strategizing is fine and necessary, on the whole, brick and baseball bats are better with Nazis. But I digress.

Years ago, I worked with a smart mathy woman who had a linear nose-to-grindstone style. I admired her, and then one day she said something devastating: “You’re not very disciplined, are you?”

I’m still shocked when people say mean things, out of the blue: unkind, untrue, un-called for. And while I suspect I drive people completely crazy who are discipline-driven, I know now that her OCD just ran a different direction than mine. Besides, those of us with wily poetic brains know: I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.

On the flip side, I do admit to getting a tad bored once I know how to solve the problem. And that’s one of the many reasons my partner is so good. When I reach the wandering-off stage, Bill is great at coming outside, gently redirecting me, and seeing the project through, especially when there’s heavy lifting involved.

Bill following thru on Sea of Juniper removal.
Follow through on Sea of Juniper removal. Meanwhile, I wandered off and trimmed Bamboo.

Bill is likewise good at encouraging our Happy Hour break. But then, of course, he has to twist my arm.

No job is so important, and no service so vital, we can't take the time for Happy Hour.
No job is so important, and no service so vital, we can’t take the time for Happy Hour.

So about my style. I hadn’t thought too much about the hellstrip in front, because that too seemed too daunting. And then my cute 86 year-old neighbor, Rosa, drove by and rolled down her window. “I see your grass is putting up seeds for next year.” Holy smokes, she’s out working in her yard almost every day, and I thought I’d better do something about it, PDQ. And then I started noodling, seeing if I could pull the grass out of the sedums, which was insane. Eventually I started pulling the sedums out of the grass. And then some went right to recycling bin.

Upshot, under all the grass and sedum, I found pavers, in fact two sets of four. Not bad, no? I had one bag of crushed rock on hand, so cleared enough around one just to see how it would look.

Flamingo Park Hellstrip b4. Doesn't look so terrible from this angle.
Flamingo Park Hellstrip b4. Doesn’t look so terrible from this angle.

But close up tells another story.

Sedum hellstrip with grass overtaking the plants. And not the good kind of grass that I paid for.
Sedum hellstrip with grass overtaking the plants. And not the good kind of grass that I paid for.
Pulling sedum out of the grass became the easier task.
Pulling sedum out of the grass became the easier task.

And then Bill came out. It goes so much faster when he’s not try to save every scrap of sedum that will grow back impossibly dense anyway.

More 50# bags of crushed rock now in stock. I could get the handtruck and finish myself. But I'm good now that I know the solution. Oh, Bill...
We found two areas with stepping stones on the hellstrip–which is where I’m sure cars will now park. And I know where I can safely plant.

I do have more 50# bags of crushed rock in stock now. And I could get the handtruck and finish it myself. The thing is, I’m good with knowing a solution is in the offing.

Cheers