Garden Artisans
Changing Seasons of Inspiration’s Palette
by Ann Zalek

As leaf tips turn shades of amber and crimson, I struggle to admit that it’s time to prepare my garden’s seasonal palette and their earthen beds for winter slumber.

Winters in Michigan aren’t forgiving to plants that typically "season" over in warmer climates (e.g. no chance for canna lilies), so digging up and bringing some of my favorites (e.g. patio plants, geraniums, etc.) inside during the colder months are worthy efforts.

Along with other avid gardeners in my family, I’m in denial that the "season" is over, and hold great hopes that there will be one more warm day to clean up, transplant or create a new work of art in my yard. (I have been spotted in years past planting tulip bulbs during January and February warm spells.)

What is the garden artisan’s craft? Painting joy on an earthen canvas.
Garden artisans paint their lives in carefree blossoms, golden hues and frosty evergreens. Their medium includes: flowers, herbs, shrubs, trees, vines and mouthwatering fruits and vegetables accented by stones, bricks, or adornments in all sizes, shapes and colors. The artisans, much like their traditional counterparts, grasp personal inspiration from (all of the senses) light, texture, shape, color, emotion, heritage (techniques or preferences passed on from generation to generation), experience and personality (whimsical to serious). Some folks plot and plan meticulously, while others brush swaths of chaos and anxiously await clues from their mystery garden (I’m the latter).

A gardener’s canvas can morph into cozy little pots on a windowsill or great expanses surrounding the home. Trailing vines and mounds of vibrant petals weave themselves among nestled plantings in my gardens and reveal a glorious work in progress. Creating and nurturing these nooks and crannies of my home’s environ evokes a sense of peace, appreciation, satisfaction and creative expression. For many, gardening is an artistic passion and way of coloring the world in simple, authentic beauty.

So what’s a garden guru to do when it’s time to come inside? Share your inspiration. Learn, teach and give.
It’s quite difficult to tuck my trusty tools and project plans away each season, so I transition my mindset from "hands-on" physical work to energy refueling activities. When the weather dictates cozy wool sweaters and a hot cup of cocoa to ease the chill, I find ways to improve my skills, explore "garden dreaming" resources, and take time to make and share garden-inspired creations. This "starter" list of suggestions may be helpful; it’s a compilation of venues that are of personal interest and by no means exhaustive. Whether brick or click, resources are abundant.

Sharpen the trowel
Sign up for a class, visit your local garden center, or pull up a chair at your local library or bookstore and learn new tips, tools and techniques to improve or expand your garden. Here are a couple ideas to get you started.
Master Gardeners- Contact your local extension office for information about your community’s Master Gardener’s and Advanced Master Gardening courses. Many programs have web-sites, so you may wish to do a quick search.

Sights/sites of Garden Inspiration
Surround your senses in posies all winter long. Tune into gardening television programs on a frosty morning, scope out well-known and lesser-known web-sites or thumb through flower and seed catalogs. For visual inspiration, surround yourself with breathtaking photographs. A couple of my "eye candy" coffee table books are listed below.

  • The Potting Shed (Smith & Hawken) by Linda Joan Smith, Hugh Palmer was a gift from a friend and I just love it.
  • The Garden Design Book by Cheryl Merser and the editors of Garden Design magazine. Gorgeous landscape designs abound in this book.
  • Stonescaping: The Art and Craft of Setting and Stacking Stone by David Reed is one of my favorites for stone work.
  • Alfresco is a magazine for Pacific Rim garden design with a funky experimental style.
  • How do you bring some of your favorite floral paintings to life? Easy Gardening web-site offers tips on how to create artful plantings in your garden that are inspired by an artist’s floral paintings (e.g. Georgia O’Keefe). (
  • Just for fun and inspiration, check out and for whimsical garden art ideas. Beautiful work!
  •, is a substantial gardener’s information and shopping guide
  • For free floral clip art go to White Flower Farms’ catalogs are tops on my list for garden dreaming. Fantastic photography!
  • There are numerous seed and flower catalogs, do a general search online for leads, plus ask your fellow gardening gurus for suggestions.

Share the masterpiece
Gifts from the garden or inspired from the garden are always thoughtful gestures anytime of the year, but especially during the season of giving. I especially like to surf online for garden-themed craft ideas (a few below), but I really enjoy scouring the shelves of my local merchants for end-of-season sales and creating my own gift creations and baskets.

  • Want to share seeds from your garden or make gifts with a floral theme? Check out this link to Better Homes and Gardens for project ideas. Free: Garden Goodies to Print Personalize seed packets, gardening aprons and journals with these free printable projects. Stay and surf this extensive resource.
  • And if you’re missing your garden, surround yourself with colorful photographs, or go one step further with this idea from Garden Home Office Decorate your office space with a gardening theme. Crafts & Collectibles:CDS-502
  • For the gardeners on your holiday list, pull together a garden gift basket. Many garden centers and crafts shops typically have seasonal items on clearance at this time of year.

What’s in store for next spring? Hope and surprise.
Spring is a time of rebirth in nature, but also a time for personal rejuvenation. I treasure this time of year, and it’s just as energizing today, as it was 30 years ago. As a child, the April rains created puddles of belly laughs, and on sunny days, my pal and I would practice cartwheels until the lush, grassy blanket seemed to be doing cartwheels around us. That inquisitive child who ran to the flower garden to smell the first blooms of spring is still alive. I’m just a litter older, a little wiser, but not a whole lot better at cartwheels.

Each season, as thirsty blossoms reach skyward for warmth from my mystery garden, I anticipate and revel in the ever-changing spectrum of hues. Sun-drenched colors splashed in my garden’s veritable palette, remind me why I hold dear the art of the gardening life. Its every changing beauty is a gift to all and its inspiration sustains me all year long.

See you in the garden!

Ann Troutman Zalek owns a marketing communication & publishing consultancy in southeastern Michigan. She is an Indiana Master Gardener and an amateur arts/crafts creative. Feel free to e-mail your thoughts and favorite resource lists to