Y ou can't hurry love. And you can't hurry a garden. Both take patience, persistence and flexibility, lessons Beverly Moore has learned in her own back yard.
Moore, an interior designer, has spent years creating the garden she imagined when she first moved into her St. Paul home.
"I always had a vision of this end product," she said of her structured landscape, which includes a pond, pergola, arbor and stone walking paths.
Over the years, as she worked in her garden, another dream took root: to see her daughter, Lauren, get married there. "Lauren inspired me," she said. "We're really close, and I once said, joking, 'I'm going to build a garden for your wedding.' It's fun to have a purpose for what you're doing."
For inspiration, she drew on a trip she'd taken with Lauren when her daughter was 16. They'd visited the Alhambra, the ancient fortress/castle in Granada, Spain, famed for its Moorish architecture and expansive gardens.
"I love the Alhambra," Moore said. "It has a lot of Islamic influences: very geometric and structured." She tried to interpret those aesthetics in her own garden.
Her first project was to install a long rectangular reflecting pond. "I put in a fence, designed the pond and dug it myself," she recalled. "It had to be 4 feet deep because I wanted koi. Honestly, the things I did. I was in my 40s and insane."
Her experiment with koi lasted only two years. First a neighbor's dog ate some of her fish. Then she had an unpleasant experience while cleaning out the pond in spring. "I'm in there, shoveling, and there was a putrid smell. On the fourth scoop, a bloated stiff squirrel comes up. I thought, 'I so don't want to do this every year.'"
So she gave up on koi, made the pond shallower and lower-maintenance, and enjoys it more. "It's lovely to listen to the sound of water," she said.
Moore's home is in Highland Park near the Mississippi River, and her pond soon started attracting birds and other creatures. "We've had wild turkeys, great blue heron, hawks, foxes and deer," she said. She once found a turkey roosting on her arbor, and a mallard duck family settled on Moore's small pond while they waited for their eggs, laid in the front yard, to hatch. "I could imagine what she was thinking: '10,000 lakes, and you've got me in this pond,'" she laughed.
Initially, Moore designed her garden to have "rooms" -- separated by a little gate and hedges. "But for some reason, no one would enter them. They were very enclosed," she said. She's since opened up her garden spaces to make them more inviting and accessible. "There are still 'rooms,' but now with an open floor plan," she said. "It's like the difference between an older home and a newer one."
Her son, Scott Honeycutt, helped with some of the hardscape, building the patio and firepit and helping her lay stone for the paths. "It's been a family garden," Moore said.
When it comes to plants, she focuses on form rather than flowers and colors. "I used to think, 'I want this color here.' Well, that color didn't want to grow here," she said. "Now I study shapes, contrast and texture. I'm always changing it, trying constantly to improve."
Ultimate design challenge
She's learned that there are no certainties in the garden. "Gardening is so much harder than interior design," she said. "If I order a gray sofa, I get a gray sofa. If it's 96 inches, it stays 96 inches."
But plants do what plants do. "Things move, like they have legs," she marveled. "They pick up and go. You can't control it. That's what makes it so intriguing."
Like her honeysuckles, for example. She planted three in a row; they share the same growing conditions and receive the same care. "Two grew OK; one grew like crazy ... it's like parenting," she said. "You provide good soil but they're going to bring their own stuff to it. You can nurture what they have. But change it? Not so much."
She's learned to accept the limits of her control and work within them. "Initially, I thought I could make things happen, that I could control nature. But the lesson is learning how to work with what does happen. Now I'm much more relaxed about what goes on."
She plants densely, leaving little room for weeds, but beyond that, she doesn't worry about them. "I'm a very lazy gardener. I'm not fussy. I'm at peace with my weeds," she said.
Moore's garden has become a popular gathering spot. "We have a lot of neighborhood potlucks. People always hang out here," she said. "This is a place for friendship and community."
During the garden season, she and her neighbor, also an avid gardener, sometimes have to remind each other that it's time to stop working and start chatting over a cocktail. "We're both kamikazes," she said. "We get going and forget to eat."
Meanwhile, Lauren, a graphic designer, had moved to Paris. Mother and daughter talked frequently, and Moore occasionally let Lauren know that the garden was ready whenever she was. "Every year, I'd say, 'The garden's looking good.' Or 'I'm in the garden now ... working on your arbor.'"
But Lauren, who nominated her mother's garden for the Beautiful Gardens contest, was taking her time finding the right person.
Then, while attending a wedding in India, Lauren finally met her match: a Frenchman named Gerard who works in finance and also lived in Paris. Moore, who was there, could see their chemistry. "It was a cool thing to get to watch her fall in love."
The couple's legal wedding ceremony was held in France. But in August, they journeyed to St. Paul to exchange vows and celebrate at a reception in Moore's garden.
She put in a little extra time over the summer, getting her garden ready for its moment, but she wasn't stressed, she said. "Lauren is the most low-maintenance bride of all time. She had no requests. She just wants people to come and have a good time."
The wedding -- a "magical moment," Moore said -- fulfilled a dream, but by then the garden had already become its own reward. "I had a strong desire to build a beautiful garden. I'm not that goal-oriented, but I wanted to start and finish," she said. "I achieved what I set out to do. I don't know if I can maintain it, as I age, but it was an accomplishment, and it feels good."
Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784