Avant-Gardenist 5:52am, 13 November 2009

Step into My Garden

An avid hands-on gardener and nature lover, Katherine Whiteside welcomes you to her organic garden for a bounty of easy-to-do ideas and tips to bring beauty into your home, naturally.

Designed by Katherine Whiteside
Published by Country Home

Click images to enlarge.

During walks in the forest surrounding her home, Katherine collects interesting nature finds, such as fungus, rocks, and bark. "The objects I find outside are just as worthy of display as my favorite silver and paintings. A beautiful stone is a sculpture, a bright piece of fungus is like a miniature painting, and pumpkins and gourds look like Buddha statues."

Dried gourds become mini sculptures when coupled with old glassware and cloches.

"I never put away my tools," Katherine says. "I leave them outdoors underneath the eaves on the garage. Sure, they rust. But you know what? They still work."

To protect a patch of peonies from being backed over by cars, I surround them with skinny posts topped with gourds.

"My office sits conveniently across the field from my house," Katherine says. "In the winter, instead of walking to work, I'll put my stuff in a backpack and cross-country ski."

"I bought this mailbox at an old hardware store," Katherine says. "I use it to store twine, scissors, a trowel, and my favorite tool-a hand weeder. All of my jeans have holes in the rear right pocket from always putting it back there."

"Every year I make a new scarecrow to stand guard over the vegetable garden," Katherine says. "This creation was a particularly hip gal (note the wristwatch) that we named Sheryl Scare-Crow."

"I surrounded a big apple tree with two sets of old picnic-table benches," Katherine says. "It's a great place to sit and watch wildlife. There's always a lot going on in a fruit tree."

This handmade bench was crafted by two teenage brothers, Ian and Forrest Kingsley. They collected the wood in the nearby forest, then made the bench as a gift for Kathernine. "I love it," she says, "especially when it's surrounded by a blanket of fall foliage."

An old metal table displays the day's fresh produce. Katherine loves her small kitchen with bright turquoise floors. "A chef once complimented me by telling me I must be a good cook because I didn't need a lot of counter space," she says.

Fresh from the garden: yams, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes. "When I have my produce all laid out, I tend to use it all," Katherine says. "The best meals happen when I put all my fresh produce out on a table. I look at it, think about it, then create a meal around it."

Step into My Garden

Designed by Katherine Whiteside
Published by Country Home

Only 50 miles outside of New York City, Katherine Whiteside's home in Garrison, New York, sits on 4 rolling acres in the Hudson River Valley. "It's a Zone 5 at the top of the hill, and a Zone 4 at the bottom," she says. We sat down and talked to Katherine about organic gardening, decorating with nature, her passion for gourds, and her book, The Way We Garden Now.

Have you always gardened organically?

Yes, for more than 25 years. Originally the reason was the simple fact that I did not like the smell of chemical fertilizers. To me, vegetable and flower gardens smell so wonderful that I just couldn't imagine hiding those aromas. As I educated myself, I realized that "the nose knows" and that organic techniques produced healthier food and a more robust environment. And they also made gardening far less expensive.

How does nature influence the way you decorate?

I'm a real nature nut. I painted my walls soft, warm sunrise/sunset colors because the sky is so pretty at those times. Plus those colors make people's complexions look beautiful, too. Vanity can be a good thing! I always try to bring something new from the gardens inside to display. It reminds everyone how the seasons continually offer us beautiful things to look at-even in winter.

What's your favorite season?

Autumn is my favorite season. My garden is planned to crescendo in September and October, with more flowers and food than imaginable. It makes sense to have a gorgeous garden when the sultry temps go back down and the energy of autumn just makes me want to be outside. The Hudson River Valley provides the most beautiful backdrop for late-season perennials, second-flush roses, and unusual annuals that just keep going and going-some until Thanksgiving.

What's up with all the gourds?

I'm crazy about gourds. I grow the birdhouse gourd variety because they don't seem to mildew and I love their mottled color. Around the garden, I have four arbors where I grow gourds. In the summer they have big white flowers that open at night and attract hawk moths. When the first frost hits in fall, the foliage dies back, and the gourds hang and dry all winter long. In the spring I pick them to use all over the place: to top off fence posts, for the scarecrow's head, to make birdhouses, and to display indoors.

What prompted you to write The Way We Garden Now?

When my kids left home and moved into their own homes, they'd call me up and say, "Mom, how do I start a garden bed? What should I grow?" That's when I decided to write a garden book with good, useful information for both novices and experts.

Modern Vintage Life PRO 5 years ago
I love poking through your older discussion threads for jewels like this one. I love hearing the thoughts of the gardeners as well as photos that make me feel like I have visited.
I recently visited the Huntington Library in Pasadena that has the most amazing gardens that started out as private grounds. I wonder about the inspiration for the variety of gardens there in one spot.
I am so inspired by the amazing gardens in this group. Thank you!
Avant-Gardenist 5 years ago
Thanks for that. I stopped posting these articles because I thought no one was paying attention. Beats me how other groups can carry on busy conversations and in this one you could hear a cyber pin drop. Glad you're enjoying yourself here. You might also enjoy my other group h ♥ m e

Lovely blog, you have there. Happy Summer Solstice!

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