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Lauren Springer

Gardener, designer and author

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With fearless fingers, she's tamed 115 acres "in the middle of nowhere" west of Fort Collins. Her book, The Undaunted Garden, was named one of the 75 best American gardening books of the century, and is widely recognized as one of the best books for gardening here on the Front Range. Lauren Springer comes to grace us with her horticultural wisdom in the Annual Founders Memorial Lecture sponsored by the Horticultural Art Society this Saturday. Her talk is titled "Creating a Resonant Garden: Blending Both Personal and Natural Landscape."

Could you explain what you mean by "resonant garden"? People in America are getting more and more into gardening, and there are more and more sophisticated gardens and interesting plants being grown but there still aren't that many gardens that, I feel, have a real distinct sense of place. There're still an awful lot of gardens out there that are really pretty, but they're kind of copies of this "proto-garden" -- the white gazebo and the perennial beds and the roses or whatever. They don't have a real personal or regional flavor.

What I'm trying to do is talk about how to let that loose in you. So I guess the word "resonant" means a garden that really has a conversation with the site and with its maker and isn't a carbon copy of some image you saw in a magazine.

How do you go about producing a garden that reflects your personal landscape? A lot of people are really shy about it. People who are very comfortable dressing stylishly, or decorating the inside of their house in a very distinctive manner, often feel really uncomfortable in the garden because there are so many other parameters that they have to deal with -- the fear of killing plants ... The whole science aspect is really daunting, so a lot of people get fixated on that and don't let loose with personal or artistic expression. ... [Gardening's] still one of the most conservative art forms, and I think that's because it's really young -- in America.

What aspects of your personality do you see in your garden? Oh, my god... It would be much better to ask someone else. A really good friend of mine, who I've known for 15 years, came to visit. And he said this really weird thing, I couldn't believe it. He said, "Your garden is very precise." That's not the first thing I'd consider myself -- precise. And I looked at him funny, and he said, "Well, you're precise. Everything you do is precise. It's really clear to me that you wanted that rock there. And it's really clear to me that you wanted that grass there."

There are so many elements to consider when designing a garden. What would you recommend novice gardeners think about first? You have to figure out your physical relationship with the outdoor space and what you're going to be doing there. I guess the basic tenet is that a garden is a place to be, not a place to show. A lot of Americans still think that gardening is an extension of painting your house, and that it's a presentation. But I really hate that. I don't think there's anything wrong with presenting your garden, but I don't think that that's the bottom line. You're never going to really enjoy gardening if it's all about product, and what it looks like to other people. It's really about being in it.

Lauren Springer's lecture will be at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave., at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30. Should you bring any of her books, including her new book, Passionate Gardening: Good Advice for Challenging Climates, she will be happy to sign it. Call 475-0250.

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