Like a fingerprint, each garden is unique to the person who creates it, reflecting their tastes, space, means and abilities. And when starting a new garden, says British gardening writer Anna Pavord, one must first consider what style it will take before making plans.
Pavord, longtime gardening columnist for The Independent and bestselling author of "The Tulip" and "The Naming of Names," will talk about "Creating Your Own Garden Style" at this year's Berkshire Botanical Garden Winter Lecture on Saturday, Feb. 13, at Monument Mountain High School.
An advantage of gardening for a long time is that a garden becomes more and more an expression of who you are, said Pavord by phone, fresh from shoveling mushroom compost at her home in Dorset, England.
As she focuses more on landscape than gardening with her upcoming book, "Landskipping," she cautions against paying too much attention to rules or fashions. "It's silly to close your mind against anything," she said.
In her talk, Pavord will explore four distinct formats: the formal garden, the country garden, and, as she describes it, the "wild, woodland meadow garden aping nature, and the mad, eclectic, wonderful folly garden." She will share images of gardens from around the world, from Japanese moss gardens to one of her favorite places, "Lotusland" in Santa Barbara, Calif.
"It belonged to a not particularly good opera singer," she said, "who went through six husbands and spent all their money on making this amazing garden."
In her own garden, Pavord maintains a light touch. "I'm not a control freak," she said, "I like plants to have room and space to express themselves, to feel that I am joining them in the garden, not necessarily masterminding them."
While she no longer tends the half-acre walled kitchen garden of her storied former home, "The Rectory," she still grows fruits and vegetables, from nectarines to courgettes. "I could never not have food around me," she said.
Wherever she speaks, Pavord strives to make her subject matter compatible with the local climate zone. Once, she recalled, she shared a picture of her favorite Californian poppy with an Australian audience. "Everyone fell about laughing, because it's a weed with them, it's all over," she said. "They couldn't believe I was seriously suggesting you should have it in your garden!"
Even after 50 years with her hands in the soil, she is still very much an active gardener, though she finds she spends more time with her back to the garden looking out over the valley, watching the light move over the fields and the birds in flight.
Still, she has lugged buckets of mulch up and down a steep path countless times over the past few days, stopping each time to consider something different.
"I never cease that engagement, ever," she said.
According to Pavord, the timing of her talk couldn't be more appropriate.
"We've been locked up in winter, and in February, you're really longing for the end of it all," she said. "It's all there waiting, those buds are bursting, it's all going to happen again."
The Winter Lecture Series has been an important fundraiser for the Garden since 1997.
"We're really excited," said Lee Buttala, Berkshire Botanical Garden director of marketing communications. "Not only is Anna a knowledgeable gardener, but she writes well about gardening, knows a lot about gardening history and is a good storyteller."
The lecture draws 300 to 400 people each year to hear renowned garden designers, plant explorers and writers.
"It's about celebrating the breadth of what horticulture can be," Buttala said.
If you go ...
Who: Anna Pavord, gardening author and columnist
What: Berkshire Botanical Garden Winter Lecture
When: 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13 (snow date Feb. 14)
Where: Monument Mountain Regional High School, Great Barrington
Cost: $45 nonmembers, $35 members
Tickets and information: berkshirebotanical.org (413) 298-3926 ext. 10