I have been a professional photographer for nearly 20 years; consequently, most of my life has been about editing. As a result, one of the basic tenets I live by is to “focus on what I love.“ If I focus on the 10,000 images I create at any given event I photograph, I am overwhelmed. I see all of the images that are out of focus, poorly exposed, and just off the mark. I feel discouraged and like a failure. However, after all these years, I have learned to trust the process. I know that this happens every single time I edit a photography shoot. And if I take heart, one by one I look through the images and choose the one out of 20 that is strong. When I’m done I go back through the strong images and I select my absolute favorites out of those. At the end I’m looking at the very best and my heart overflows with gratitude and delight. I do the same thing for my home. And I do the same thing for my garden.
Recently I attended a workshop with the international garden designer, Christopher Woods. He asked the question: “What do you want your garden to do?” I was musing on this question when he pointed his finger at me from across the room and said, “You. I want to know what YOU think.“ I was sitting in the far back corner so needless to say I felt horrified as the entire room turned to look at me. It was only about 20 people but that was plenty. If you are an introvert you know exactly how I felt! My brain clamped up and the room suddenly felt twenty degrees warmer. Through a thick mental haze I started to talk about how I have been very specific about creating a garden with a color palette of a white and silver with a splash of purple, apricot, and soft pink. He had described in his lecture that white plants create a sense of simplicity, order, cleanliness, and visual harmony. That had clearly resonated with me and made perfect sense. This is exactly what I single-mindedly focus on creating in every facet of my life — my home, my decor, my spiritual practice, my relationships, my garden. And this is what I help others do as in my role as the Making Space For Beauty coach.
When we first moved into our current home it was a disaster. It was a short sale just days away from foreclosure– which is why we could afford it! We scraped all the landscaping, took out all the grass, and put in garden beds. It seemed the perfect spot for a cottage garden! I planted delphinium, artemisia, echinacea, David’s phlox, cosmos, larkspur, poppies, Verbena Bonariensis, hollyhock. All of the quintessential cottage garden plants.
I don’t know what it was about the previous owners, but the impact of their presence wasn’t good. Almost every living thing on the property had died when we bought the house. The ash tree in front was so pitiful several tree service companies knocked on our door suggesting we hire them to take it out for us.. But I just couldn’t bring myself to have it cut it down when it was still hanging in there. We chose to leave it in the ground, water it, add beautiful plants all around it, and hope that it would survive. The next season I think it almost doubled in size – which was awesome! Except for the fact, that my full sun “cottage garden” was now almost completely shaded until 4 PM when it got blasted with the end of day high intensity Colorado sun. I’m not sure a single one of the plants that I put in made it, except the hydrangeas and hostas.
I spent the next four years experimenting with new plants, crossing my fingers, and trying to find plants that could survive that type of lighting situation. Little by little, the garden morphed into a Moon Garden. Whites and silvers with a splash of purple since Rozanne geranium is one of my favorite plants of all time, and a dusting of soft pink from Pink Nancy Lamium. I am drawn to plants with unique and interesting foliage. I’ve noticed that as other buyers check out at the garden nurseries with their boxes full of orange, red, yellow, fuschias, in contrast my box is full of green, variegated leaves and soft white flowers. I appreciate the intricate textures and shapes of the beauties I am bringing home so much more when there is not a cacophony of color! I know many who have vibrant and wildly-optimistic personalities. Those wild colors suit them perfectly. They are not for me.
I am overwhelmed by noise, light, sound, emotions. Is that because I’m empathetic? Adult child of an alcoholic? Hyper-vigilant? Post concussion? Or just naturally a sensitive creature? A little/lot of all of that? I’m not sure. I’m also not sure that it is critical that I know what the causes are. What IS important is that I recognize what is true for me and what I need to be able to heal and go out into the world with an open full heart so I can serve others to the best of my ability and my calling; my unique genius.
I am learning to be gentle with myself and unapologetically create an environment where I feel safe, nurtured, and inspired by beauty. I have found that I cannot MAKE myself heal or transform. I cannot even reclaim the energy, confidence, and brashness of my younger self. What I CAN do is start to embrace who I am now. I can practice stillness, presence, and trust in the holy. I can create a space that reflects my own heart. A space that smiles back at me and sings me into this next chapter of life.
The garden I am creating is calm, magical, peaceful, elegant, spirited, and intimate. A reflection of the woman I am becoming.
The whites and silvers glow at night, which happens to be the time I am most awake and energized. I am overwhelmed and distracted during the day. Night is when I seem to come to life. Now that I think about it, it’s no big surprise that I have created a garden that starts to twinkle as twilight slips in.
After five years of experimenting, I decided to stop mucking about with the plants that weren’t working. I committed to focusing on the plants that were thriving. I planted more white bleeding hearts, white foxglove, Campanula Alba, Dusty Miller, Cranesbill, white delphinium, Eyeliner Lilies, Honorine Jobert anemone, and lamium. Now I will step back and let it breathe. It feels like time to let it stretch out and grow into itself. Time for me to stop nitpicking and to start resting in the beauty that has come into being.
The glorious featured images are (c) Regina Marie Mountjoy and used with her generous permission for The Cultivating Project.
Regina Mountjoy has photographed gardens all over the world for better than 20 years, always scanning for the flower smiling back at her. Currently she makes her home in Lafayette, Colorado with her handsome husband and two beloved cattle dogs. When she is not traveling hither and yon, Regina tends her own beautiful white garden, edits countless images, and creates spaces of order and beauty for both herself and her clients at Making Space for Beauty. A deep-rooted Contemplative Christian, she keeps her focus on the good, the true, and beautiful, believes in tipping generously – no matter what, and that letting go of the swirling to-do list to simply be present in the moment is always worthwhile!