My Kitchen Garden with sound effects!

It wasn’t very long after learning I had a passion for cooking that I planted my first kitchen garden.  It might have even happened at the same time.  Cooking and gardening go together; gathering herbs and vegetables at their peak of flavor, putting them in a basket, bringing them to the kitchen, fresh-picked and unsprayed from our own small garden has been a giant plus for our “cottage of content.” 

I had always dreamed of having a garden with a gate, surrounded by a picket fence.  So one day Joe dug a spot out of our lawn, and I went shopping for plants!  I didn’t want or need a garden any bigger than I could take care of myself.  I just wanted a fragrant path; a place I could go to listen to the bees while digging in the dirt.

I was so excited while Joe was building this, I had it all planted before the gate was on.  Lined in marigolds to help keep pests away (not to mention looking good), I planted mostly things for salad: lettuces, tomatoes, radishes, basil, garlic, chives, mint, lemon thyme, sage, rosemary, camomile, nasturtiums, peppers, lemon cucumbers and lavender. Oh, and strawberries!  So I can gather a few for our breakfast!  These things are always in our garden.  But sometimes I plant purple potatoes too, and sometimes we plant watermelon or pumpkins, for fun.

The next year, Joe put in raised beds with a path that goes all the way around. I added lots of flowers!  Many flowers, all the roses and berries, and some of the herbs, like the chives and thyme, are perennials and come back every year. This is how our garden would look today if this was June!

These are flowers from our garden I dried last year, between the pages of a huge dictionary.  I put them in my diaries and in letters.

But I’m showing you this now so in case you’d like to have a picket-fence kitchen garden of your own this year, you’ll have plenty of time to plan.  A few years back, we were spending half our time out in California, so we bought this big, weed-infested, gopher conservation area (or so it seemed since there were easily one billion of them on this property).  When it came time to plant the lawn, we realized we had to have another kitchen garden.  So Joe took his shovel out to contemplate the spot we’d chosen for it.

Oh yes, he can dig it.

Only this time he did it with a tractor.  Men building gardens is a well-known aphrodisiac, don’t you think?  Need I even say that my favorite Village Person was the guy wearing the tool belt?  Probably not.

He practically had to dig a swimming pool to get the hole deep enough — so that he could line it in hardware cloth to keep the gophers out, and then refill it with dirt.  He is my hero.

And who is the happiest girl?  Me.

And in a very short time, with a little sunshine, fresh air, and water, it looked like this.  A garden is about as close to heaven as you can get on earth.  It’s like church. Breezes blowing, birds singing, sun shining, bee’s buzzing, butterflies fluttering, hummingbirds humming, tomatoes ripening, roses emitting, all done in perfect quiet.

The fence hides the mess inside, because sometimes it’s a wreck in there; there have also been years when we’ve been traveling that I haven’t planted at all.  But the perennials keep it looking nice no matter what.

March is when I like to start planning.  I get out my old garden books and my diary, to see what I did last year.  I look at old photos.  I call my garden “My Toy” because it’s like a toy.  I play with it, redecorate with different flowers every year, try out new things.

This is last year’s basket of bulbs and seeds to plant.  I love gladiolus against a picket fence; I put them in every year. When I was younger, I lived in second floor apartment that had no garden.  I hung a window box outside the window in the kitchen eating area, and filled it with garden soil.  With a  tiny kid’s trowel; I planted a little salad garden that included nasturtiums, lemon thyme, three heads of leaf lettuce (I picked one leaf at a time and left the rest growing); and pansies for the little vase on the table. That’s all there was room for but it was just enough; I could open my window, and voila! There was my garden, practically in the kitchen!

Picket fences also look very nice in the snow.

We don’t cut everything back on purpose, because even stick-dead things look pretty with snow on them!

So if you have a garden like this in mind, here’s the plan:

You can find this drawing on page ten of the Summer Book, if you need it.  And one last little tidbit of information:  Paint your fence with white stain rather than using oil based paint.  Your paint job will last much longer; when it gets old, it will fade rather than chip and you’ll be able to repaint a lot easier.

From my art table, this is the view I have of the garden. I was just looking out there, through the storm windows, past trees with no leaves, and I can picture it just like this, soon, rhododendrons in bloom and May breezes fluttering the curtains.  My toy is gearing up for the season!  OK girls, have a wonderful day! 

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392 Responses to

  1. Lisa G. says:

    Susan, this picket-fenced garden of yours is the main reason why I bought your summer cookbook – that photo entranced me from the moment I set eyes on it. The idea of a garden with a white fence around it! And flowers! A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Someday I would like one of those, but I have to become a gardener first – my brother always did it, but he hasn’t time anymore – now, I have to learn.

    God bless you!

    • sbranch says:

      It’s a fun thing to learn … there is so much! Just remember to plant flowers in clumps of at least 3 plants — same with bulbs, at least 3 in a clump — if more, then it should always be uneven number. Just a little thing, but makes a huge difference in the garden!

  2. Jane Cummiskey says:

    Thanks for sharing your lovely gardens and the sound effects as well. I have been anxious for spring here in Cordova, Tennessee and Saturday placed a wreath with silk spring flowers on my front door. While still arranging flowers on the wreath a humming bird came to check out the flowers. So I now have live flowers in planters hopefully to lure it back. Just hope the weather cooperates!
    Can’t wait to get into the garden!! I have not yet broken the news to my husband that I want to add a white picket fence to our garden at the side of the house.

  3. Rae Ann says:

    I was so busy today with my hubby’s birthday celebration that I forgot to check your blog til now…love your colorful garden, drawings, words, musica…thank you for sharing…still lots of snow on the ground here in western Minnesota, but a warm up is on the way tomorrow so there will be melting…realized today that my husband and I have been in love for 50 years!!!…since freshman and sophomore years in high school…I sent him flowers for his office…tulips, tiger lillies, huge blue hydrangeas and curly sticks with little leaves on them…spring is on its way…

  4. Deb says:

    Now I am inspired to inspire my hubby to plant a garden with a white picket fence and fill it full of herbs and vegetables and flowers! Thank you dear! Have a wonderful week! ~Deb from Strafford, MO

  5. Cindy Maulin says:

    hi susan..just makes me want to start diggin’!! it has been a very strange ( but wonderful) non-winter hasn’t it? Our daffodils are already up and in bloom…!!
    Love the pictures of your garden…i used your plans as part of my small but precious herb and vegetable garden….saw them in your Summer book several years ago…it’s not exactly, but it gave me the right stuff to plant and where to plant it….i love the whole scene..but my favorite is your sun bonnet on the fence…welcoming..charming…you look great in your shot too…love it that you are gardening dressed in white!!! beautiful!! : ) you and joe have done a magnificent job with that house, yard and garden…can tell you enjoy it all the year long….it’s lucky you both like the outdoor work…my husband was born and raised on a farm and has always loved the fruits of the land…but HE HATES MOLES and has become proficient at doing away with the pesky varments….!!
    a bit of garden lore…..
    Don’t pick a pansy that has dew on it…you’ll invite it to storm….thank you’re the best!! happy gardening….love, cindy

    • sbranch says:

      I may look like I’m in white, but it’s a big t shirt and the old paints I painted the living room in! Not quite as pristine close up. I’m lucky that photo wasn’t taken with me in my nightgown!

      We got rid of all the gophers, we really did, went on a gopher march. But we could never get rid of the moles!! What is his secret?

      • Cindy Maulin says:

        several methods…some a bit too morbid… but here goes…
        1. the step-down self-setting mole place it over the raised tunnel and set it by stepping on it and shoving these clamp-like things into the ground (shiver) best trap and he has tried them all believe me!!!…2. bait that looks like earthworms-poison..Tom Cat brand… (eek..)..both of these items are found at a local nursery or hardware store…i’d be very careful with this one since you have the Kittys around…highly succcessful but a little expensive…3. the garden hose method…shove a garden hose into a fresh tunnel and turn on the water….have spade ( or golf club preferably a 9 iron ) in hand, and flood ’em out then bop!(cover eyes)…a little too primitive for me, but also works. Our property backs to woods and we have had a whole colony before and they absolutely wreck lawns and gardens. He also tried spraying the yard and garden with a grub-killer, vibrating things in the ground to deter them as they hate sound, moth balls, bubble gum and mineral oil in the tunnels…zilch-o… know the feeling with the gophers..I…too..have been in on the mole march.. sometimes even in a nightgown!!!…not a pretty sight!!! Tried sharing the area with them, but they just take over…still, you look darling working in your garden even in old pants!! good luck with the moles…

        • sbranch says:

          We tried cotton balls dipped in mint oil. Also spearmint gum and moth balls. Too funny. I saw the garden hose method in action out of the corner of one squinted eye, and yes, it’s kind of a nightmare! We never caught one in a trap, they go around. I like the earthworms-poison . . . we could do it now because all our cats are on the island — we don’t have moles here… we’re in such a settled neighborhood that we really only have tomato worms and beetles. Thanks Cindy! Have a wonderful day!

          • Cathy McC. says:

            I’m wondering you mean when you said all your cats were on the island. I thought your house was on an island. Am I confused? (Often happens to Ethel.)

          • sbranch says:

            Cindy had mentioned that I shouldn’t use poison on moles when my cats are around. The moles are in California, where one of my cats lived for a time, but now I have two cats and they’re both on the island with me, so there are no cats to get into the poison in California. Hope this makes sense!

  6. LisaPB says:

    you have a knack for bringing dreams to life! Love both of your gardens ~ just perfect! Right now I just have a patio that only gets sun for a brief hour late in the afternoon ~ it’s hard to even keep a pot of flowers blooming, so I revel in seeing photos of lovely gardens and dream of the day I can once again have a garden similar to yours!

  7. Kirsten Anne Wichert of So. Calif. says:

    O.K. It’s gone from winter to summer here! It was 91 degrees yesterday. Tooooo hot for me. I yearn for the cold weather to come here but it leaves much too quickly. We can hardly enjoy wearing our sweaters. Most people have already planted their vegs. like tomatoes etc. But we harvest them through Oct. (they’ll be ready in May). I could swear that our hot seasons are lasting longer and longer. Global warming? I hope not but I’m afraid so……….

    • sbranch says:

      I’m sure it is, we just keep heading right straight toward it, whatever we’re calling it!

  8. Sylvia Faye says:

    Susan I just loved this post about both your gardens….

    Gardens soothe the Soul as well as feeds the body it’s bounty…….

    So real…so downhome…so unites the family….

    Always love picket fences…..don’t they speak to the heart?

    ~Sylvia Faye

  9. Nancy B says:

    Beautiful. I just love this post. You must have the most energy of any woman I know…can you spare some?

  10. Dorothy Ann says:

    * Hi Susan *
    What a wonderful garden path you led us down today…to your “Dream Garden”…photos filled with delightful fruits and vegetables and gorgeous flowers. Thank you for the amazing tour.

    Love the music playing in the background…love viewing the beginning stages of your garden to the lovely finished one, with a bright white picket fence. And of course, with a gate!

    You are a happy girl…smiling and soooo cute in that photo tending to your magical garden. All I can say, as I bid you “good morning” is:
    “Who can turn the world on with her smile…who can take a Monday and make it all worthwhile”? Why, it’s you, Susan. It’s you! (I’m guessing you are thinking I was going to say, Mary Tyler Moore).
    * Dorothy Ann on Cougar Mountain *

  11. Jamie V. says:

    Hi Susan-
    Well, Im just in love with your gardens both East side and West side. They are definately knock outs!
    Got a kick out of you calling your garden your “toy” and that you redecorate it each year. That really made me smile. Im saving this blog to show my husband how fabulous a picket fence is. He surprised me a few years back by digging me a circular rose garden with an English bird house on a tall pole in the middle. Its the best feature of my yard and says love all over it because of his thoughtfulness. Your Joe is a very special guy too, how wonderful of him to have dug you those gardens and put up 2 lovely fences. Your a lucky lady!
    Thanks for the inspiration and giving us a peek at spring! Loved the bird song too it went well with this blog and my kitty enjoyed it also.
    Jamie 🙂

    • sbranch says:

      Spring hits here with a change in the air first, which is very exhilarating — opening all the doors is pure heaven; visual comes later!

  12. Ah! What a joy! It is just gone 8:00 a.m. and I have just put the breakfast porridge on the stove (it will be ready in 30 minutes) to the sound of birdsong filling my small cottage on this beautiful spring morning. The pure joy of gardening . . and after a long and dark winter what food is better for the soul than digging and planting? Two things are very near and dear to my gardening heart . . the concept of ‘plot to plate’ and the need to plant pollen dense flowers. I hope this link works, it is to the page of one of my heroines

    The simple joy of growing and harvesting your own food are immeasurable. Even the smallest window can host a small box of simple salad leaves, and hanging baskets only need a wall. I am lucky that I have two small plots, in addition to the lawn and flower borders. I grow much in the summer and only visit the shops for what I cannot grow myself. One side is dedicated to vegetable crops and herbs, the other to soft fruit. I love to make jams, chutneys, preserves, and wine from my garden, and the wild blackberry vines on my ancient stone hedge help considerably! A step in the direction of self sufficiency.

    Oh! Happy Days! The garden, bathed in warm spring sunshine, beckons again today for the great clean up after winter continues . . . but for now, the porridge is nearly ready and my tummy is rumbling and calling for food!

    • sbranch says:

      Have a wonderful day Deborah — we also have wild blackberries growing out behind the barn. Gifts from nature!

  13. Jane says:

    You must have a green thumb…your garden is SO lush! I know we have similar weather in the Midwest as you do on Martha’s Vineyard, but I am amazed at how well your garden does. I struggle with mine all the time. My lavender looks the same size as when I put it in. I suppose it is the difference in the soil. Someday if you should visit me in Chicago or Michigan {2 homes=2 gardens}, I will give you the 30 second tour!!


    • sbranch says:

      Drive around this spring and summer, and look at what does REALLY WELL in your neck of the woods, and plant that!

      • Pat Mofjeld says:

        That is the absolutely best advice you can give anyone on what to plant in their area! I love when there are “garden tours” in our area, too, and like to go for ideas…:-)

    • Chris Wells says:

      Jane, Lavender does not like to be wet. Soil needs to be well draining. Otherwise does well in most parts of the country. And lots of sun!

      • sbranch says:

        I think our lavender on the island is affected too by the humidity. Which fits. I can have it, but not the big round luscious bushes we have in California.

    • Karen P. -Wisconsin says:

      My big pet peeve is when garden centers carry tons of stock that is not our zone. Before we knew much about landscaping and gardening, we bought what appealed to us….didn’t know about the importance of planting according to what zone we are in. NOW we know better. Lavender doesn’t thrive here for me in northeastern WI, either, Jane….and I love it so much!

  14. Sara says:

    Holiday, FL

    I just love all of your flowers! I am going through withdraw from gardening! I am waiting until we move to do a lot of my gardening. When we do, I think I may just use your plans! 🙂

  15. Betty says:

    Your pretty fenced garden looks so inviting……a good idea to keep it all together like that. You must be looking forward to all the joys of spring and planning for summer. It’s almost autumn here. I’m going to buy some sweet pea seeds, as St. Patrick’s day (or close to it) is the time we plant them, to flower next spring. There’s never a dull moment in a garden….always something happening, even if it’s going on under a blanket of snow:)
    Betty (Melbourne)

  16. Cheryl Egan says:

    Hi Sue!
    I loved reading this blog, but I could not help but notice the time of day you were answereing the comments. Dear Woman, Don’t you ever sleep? Anyway, I had to share with you how much you have inspired me over the years. In 1990 Brad and I and our 2 kids (at the time, now there are 3 and they are all grown up) moved back to the Cape after living in NYC for 10 years. It was around that time that I got my first “Susan Branch” cookbook, Heart of the Home. I had actually forgotten that it was you that inspired me to plant my very first vegetable garden in the back yard of our first home. Living in NYC for 10 years did not allow me to have one. Isn’t your first house something you never forget? Well, moving on…we put in 3 raised beds and my garden was wonderful for several years. One of the best things it provided was an appreciation for my early awareness of whole foods. My son loved to pick the bugs off the leaves for me! Even back then I had some knowledge of what pesticides do to what we eat. How time blurrs things! It was YOU that inspired me all those years ago. Life is so strange…or may not.
    We no longer live in that little saltbox house. We out grew it with the addition of another baby and as our family grew so did everything else! We actually moved almost directly accross the street and it is sad that although we have a very nice yard here, there is not enough sun to allow for a vegetable garden unless we cut down a ton of trees and I am not here in the summer for long enough to really care for one, but I wanted to share with you how much you have inspired me over the years and thank you from the bottom of my heart. There are dozens of examples and I could write about them for hours now that they are all coming back to me, but I should share the blogging space with eveyone else! Thank you for reminding me and bringing back such nice memories of when life was simple an my kids were young and playing in the garden in the back yard of our first home. Best thoughts! xxoo

    • sbranch says:

      Wonderful to hear about Cheryl! Last year, after realizing that our old trees had grown into a thick canopy over our back yard, blocking the sun and making it hard for the roses to bloom over the arbor, even difficult for the lilacs and weeping cherries! It had happened so gradually, we didn’t notice what was going on. So we went crazy and thinned them all out. Went up high into the branches and made space for the sun to get through. What a difference!!! Just in case that would work for you! And sometimes a patch of sun really is worth more than a tree, if you have a gazillion of them!

  17. Darlene B (nyc) says:

    Thank you Susan for the joy you bring…..all you share is always so beautiful and inspiringxoxo

  18. Cindy Stokes says:

    Sooo beautiful Susan! We built a house in the woods and moved in a year ago Thanksgiving. We have a bit of a front yard now and nothing out back yet. I long for a garden like this out my kitchen window…will the deer leave it alone?? They have already nibbled on the monkey grass and creeping geranium (just to taste?) I miss the lovely gardens of my old home. I do love the woods though! Maybe, just maybe we can make it happen! You have given me much inspiration!
    Cindy…of the wood! LOL

  19. Jeannine Holmes, SC says:

    Just loved the dried flowers on the way through your blog! I could smell the marigolds breeze by. And the bird song cradled my ears all the way through. Thanks for the wonderful blast to the senses!!!

  20. Francine says:

    Your garden is lovely! I can almost imagine myself right next to it joining you for a cup of tea and some of your delicious goodies!! I adore the picket fence! I know you can’t wait to start digging in it, and bringing the flowers into your house! I will look forward to pictures of it throughout the growing months! Enjoy!!!

  21. Christine from Lafayette, CO says:

    I’ve got the Spring Fever Bug! Our front yard is absolutely beautiful with lavender, bulbs, walkways, and gorgeous lawn. The deck off of the diningroom is also well cared for with flowers and bird feeders, bird baths, etc. However, Cowboy made me a beautiful English garden on the backside of the house and a H-U-G-E veggie garden on the south side of the house….I’ve neglected both (shame on me!) but seeing your layouts and pictures have inspired me to get my hands dirty and give it life again. I love the fact that you are getting us girlfriends thinking about gardening NOW so we can sketch and start buying our seeds. March is the snowiest month for Colorado so I’ll be content to pour over my magazines and books and PLAN! But, come May….I’ll be adorned in my bluejeans, T-shirt, sun bonnet, crocks and trowel in hand ready to go! The key to the whole garden is the white-picket fence, not just for its charm, but to keep the 2 labs and French Bulldog out of area!! Also love the flowers outside the fence. You have such a generous soul to share all your secrets with us! Thanks Girlfriend!!

  22. Jack says:

    There are literally hundreds of deer repellant recipes and mixes available for free on Google
    Most of the homemade variety , quite similar in content , like a mix of eggs , hot pepper and
    such –plus the authors swear by them as far as being effective ……..they do take a certain amount of dedication in keeping up with fresh applications every two or three weeks , but in looking at them ……They see very severe and should do the job !

  23. Shelley Bresett says:

    Hi Susan,
    Your garden reminds me of the one my Mother used to have when I was growing up. I really didn’t understand her delight in weeding and tending to her garden everyday after work. I would work along side her and we’d talk about the what she had planted and it was the best time. Now, I have my garden and I love to get my hands, dirty and plan the best spots for all of my flowers and plants and then watch it grow and bloom and pick the flowers for my table. Thank you for your inspiration and pictures Susan, I now have even more ideas to put to use.

    Have a great day!
    Shelley from Chatham, On, Canada

  24. Jack says:

    “Don’t say word , just look at him” — poor sucker doesn’t have a chance —
    The wiles and ways of women!

  25. Paula from Owensboro, Kentucky says:

    Oh, man — I’m going to have to go out TODAY and get some pansies to put in my window pots after seeing your garden. I’ve been thinking about it for a week, and it is time! My irises and lilies are starting to come up. I’m excited because I bought some new irises last spring — one in particular was the Kentucky Derby — I’ve waited a year to see it in my yard! I’ve put up my bluebird box in hopes of a bluebird in my yard. I have my little kitchen garden on my porch in pots — rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, lavender, several different mints for ice tea, of course, and mint juleps on Derby Day!!!! I was born a Texan, but I’ve come to enjoy some Kentucky traditions also!

    • sbranch says:

      I have bluebirds in California, not sure if they’re the same variety as yours, but although mine love their box…they never come near the house. They’re field birds. We put the house way away from the house. Yes, I do agree with you on that particular Kentucky tradition . . . we always have mint juleps on Derby Day!

  26. Tracy says:

    Oh my DREAM garden!!! I have loved your garden since I first saw it in the Summer book. My son Alex (21) is interested in creating a garden this year. I’m excited to work on it with him. Just wondering when our weather will settle, if ever? Last Friday we had thunderstorms and lots of hail. Sunday it snowed a couple of inches. Today it’s supposed to be 68 degrees. That’s Central Illinois for ya! (PS: Will you please do a SPRING book? We would LOVE it!)

  27. Kelli says:

    I just love your garden! I saw your little snippet in the Country Register a few years ago and fell in love. Finally, last spring I talked my husband into creating a garden (picket fence included!) This spring it will be stained light grey to match the siding. I cannot wait to start planting.
    Thank you so much for your inspiration!!

  28. ellen scott says:

    good morning susan, it is sunny day and temps are suppose to go up to almost fifety today here on the shores of lake erie near cleveland, i love to garden and looking at your list of things you plant i saw one was lemon cucumber i have never heard of it what is it like… you order it or can you usually get it at the nursery. did you ever hear of growing a cucumber in a bottle…when a cucumber is small you insert it into a bottle leaving it attached to the vine. you don’t have to do anything special , and at the end of the growing season you have a cucumber in a bottle, a cute idea for children….have a great day

    • sbranch says:

      Cute! A lemon cucumber is round and yellow. Easy to find in the west, not so easy out here.

      • Janet says:

        Thanks Ellen – for asking about lemon cucumbers. I never heard of them either and was just about to ask. They SOUND really yummy. I know the standard kinda-bumpy green cucumber and the slender supposedly-seedless English cucumbers – but that’s about it. Unfortunately I think ALL cukes are out for me – my whole garden has to be in containers. Kinda nice, kinda not. I have grape tomatoes, basil, thyme, oregano, lemon verbena, green peppers, 2 strawberry pots and 2 18-inch wide round terracotta “bowls” with yummy buttery Boston lettuce. Can’t wait to go out to pick myself the world’s freshest salad!

        Best garden memory ever: when I was a kid my parents planted 200 tomato plants when they finally enough land for a roomy garden – they needed one with 6 kids – and I remember hours of tomato-weeding. They really didn’t realize how many tomatoes they were going to end up with but both families and lots of friends received lots of surplus tomatoes that year PLUS my mom canned dozens of quarts PLUS my dad put some out for sale at the end of our long driveway. But best of all was that first day in August when you go out to the tomato patch around 2 in the afternoon on a sunny day with a wet paper towel and a salt shaker – and pick yourself the most perfect red ripe tomato, wipe it clean, take that first bite – then sprinkle a little salt on the open flesh and take a second bite! The tomato is so warm and delicious from being in the sun it’s almost hot – and tastes remarkably like fresh tomato sauce. Pure heaven! My mouth is watering now… Thanks for yet-another inspiring blog, Miss Sue!

  29. Susan,
    Really pretty garden!! You know really pretty. I love seed packets don’t you? Do you Iron the flowers you save between wax paper before you put them in a heavy book? Got my first Gladys Taber newsletter yesterday. That was pretty exciting. Going to write them and see if I can get some back issues.
    Nancy Jo

  30. Kate garfield says:

    Beautiful, just beautiful… A dream garden!

  31. Suzanne Larsen says:

    Susan, I loved your first picture of the garden so much, I made it my wallpaper. Someday when my husband is retired and we have built our house in Arkansas, I hope to have a garden similar to this one. You are indeed, a very blessed person.

  32. Gill says:

    Our snow is retreating and the ice is slowly thawing…the first wildflowers are out (coltsfoot) and there are the very first pink “buds” of rhubarb pushing at the soil in my kitchen garden. Oh, the wonder that any plants can survive the winters here! One apple tree is definitely dead 🙁 but the forsythias are absolutely covered with tight little buds. Just a few more weeks and they will be glorious! Spring, spring, spring is on its way!

  33. Julie Cavrich says:

    Great post! Makes me want to get into the dirt. I plan on planting some tomatoes and lettuce this year. Nothing like your garden, but just enough for me and mine. It is going to be 60 + degress on Thursday! I can’t wait to open the windows. Happy Tuesday to all! Kisses to the Kitties!

  34. Janie Phillips says:

    I would LOVE to have a garden like yours in my backyard — maybe someday! In the meantime, I’ve been looking out my kitchen window at a beautiful patch of pansies all winter. I kept thinking I should go out and cut some to dry, but I didn’t ever do it. After reading this post, I went outside and gathered up a basketful which are now pressed between the pages of my huge dictionary. Thanks for inspiring me to Just Do It! You’re better than a Nike ad 🙂 Now I’m going back out to collect a few more pansies for a little vase. I think you’ll approve 🙂 Much love to you, dear Sue … xoxo

    • sbranch says:

      Better than a Nike ad!!! That’s a compliment! I do very much approve of your little vase!

  35. NANCY JO says:

    ps susan,
    Had to change from NANCY GARTENMAN TO NANCY JO. not to worry just part of my obsessive self.
    Nancy Jo

  36. Debbie N. says:

    Good afternoon Susan,
    The bird sound effect that you provided has just ended so I’m stopping my letter for just a moment to begin it again. Just one moment while I do this….. Okay I’m back. Oh the delicious sounds of birds singing. I saw my first robin the other day. It made me feel so happy. I too can’t wait to plant my flower garden. I just have a strip in front of my townhouse but I pack it tightly with bloom and I put pots of flowers on my front stoop and hanging baskets on poles round it all out. No real plan to it all just a riot of color and for me that is the main point.
    Since I live in western PA our frost date is May 17th so I have to reign in my urge to plant but like you I can dream and plan.
    During the winter I have my indoor plants to tend to. I have African violets, cylamen, Christmas Cactus, jade plant and of course my Amarylises. These darlings make the wintertime bearable for me.
    Have fun with you planning! I know I am. 🙂

  37. Carilyn Wolski says:

    Hello Susan! Your garden is beautiful! Viewing your photos make me dream of spring and your flowers are so pretty and colorful!!! How pretty it would be to “cross-stitch” a picture of your garden……the flowers, the white picket fence, the sun bonnet, the precious white chairs……..oooooooooooh I would love to have a pattern to stitch of your wonderful picture-perfect garden!!!! Could you …. would you….someday????

  38. Rosinda says:

    Loved your post, especially those dry flowers!! Spring is around the corner and I can’t wait! Happy Tuesday, sweet Susan! xoxo

    Ontario, Canada

  39. Theresa says:

    Hi Susan

    Your garden pics are awesome…what a beautiful feast for the eyes…is that center tuft(lavender color) your lavender???Or is it hyssop?…my hyssop looks like that but my lavender struggles to grow taller each season…I am in northern NH. ..we still have 5inches of the white stuff on ground…but the maple buckets are overflowing, and its supposed to be 60 degrees on Wednesday!..Any tips for me to help make my lavender plants gargantuos?

  40. Mary S. says:

    You probably already know this, Susan, but for those who don’t…. Most seeds these days are genetically modified!! GMO seeds and foods are BAD and are almost totally lacking in nutrients. Non-GMO seeds are available! Here are two websites that sell them: and

    Love from Mary S. in Fresno, CA

  41. Angie Sybrant says:

    Susan thanks for the tip, on using white stain instead of white paint, on the picket fence! I will keep it in mind for my future fence.

  42. JoAnn Petersen says:

    Hi, I am not a gardner, but while on a trip to east
    texas I got to stop at Marshal pottery and bought a large round flat pot and planted a lettuce garden and we are having a fresh salad bowl every night for dinner so now I am moving on to mint and other things I can grow in pot on my patio. I have your Summer book and am going to take a look at the garden plan when I close.
    Love Ya, JoAnn

  43. Linda From Sudbury says:

    I can’t wait for spring! Your garden is beautiful. I’ve lost interest in mine and mostly plant flowers. This year I’m planting butterfly bushes in containers. A small variety called Buzz. For my butterflies and hummingbirds (they are making their way!). I dried flowers too, and want to glue them in a heart shape and frame them. I’ll have to go find them!

  44. Lynn says:

    Hi Susan! Is your garden in California the same size as the one on Martha’s Vineyard? I think I’m going to put one of these in this year, but am not a designer. I need a picture, measurements, a PLAN in order to do much of anything. I have a large backyard, no shade trees – it was new construction and trees take so long to grow! I have gardens along every border of the yard and all around the house, but love the look of a picket fence garden. If you could let me know if both gardens are the same size so I can be a copycat and try to recreate one of them, I would appreciate it. Also, if anybody’s interested, I friended or liked (or something) a group on facebook – Flea Market Gardening. Really cool ideas on there, too. Thanks for being you!

    • sbranch says:

      The garden in Martha’s Vineyard is 12 x 24 — the one in California is a little bit bigger. The fence comes in certain sized lengths (those pieces that go between the posts, and I’m not sure how long they are), so you just get the number of pieces you need to make the size you want it to be. When you go to your lumber store, they will help you know how much to buy.

  45. Joan Lesmeister says:

    So, if I am lucky enough to be flying cross country this summer, I’ll see beautiful little gardens growing within charming white picket fences. I’ll love it! xo

  46. Dinahsoar says:

    Love your garden…thanks for sharing it and all the beautiful pictures…someday soon I hope to have the ‘cottage’ to go with a cottage garden. I’ve always wanted one with a picket fence–is there anything more romantic?…from the hills of TN.

  47. Just gorgeous!! I’ve planted an herb garden out back for years, but the past couple of summers, it just doesn’t get enough sun (neighbor’s large tree overshadows everything). So this year we’re thinking of turning the front yard into a garden. We live in a 1/2 house – they call them “shotgun” houses here – with a small yard right up on the street. I think it will look cute with a picket fence, heirloom tomatoes and herbs!

    Must get the Summer book out for inspiration!

    ♥ Carolee

  48. Margie from Lavender Cottage says:

    I’m waiting for the end of March because I have the old vegetable garden to plant up with fun “stuff”. It will primarily be lavender but laying in bed at night I’m thinking maybe some sweet peas and holly hocks along side the garage wall. Maybe a pickett fence with a gate leading into the yard (garden). There is just so much I can do with that little space. I need to start carrying around a garden notebook…..I love garden notebooks!!! We have sunshine here in Ohio with rising temps again. What an amazing non-winter!! Have a great Tuesday Night, Girls!! Thanks, Susan, for getting my gardening senses wakening!

  49. Gail from Hingham, Mass. says:

    Dear Susan,
    I love your garden photos! The first one, in particular, with the blue hydrangeas in full bloom evoces the feeling of a summer day. I can not wait for the blossoms to start popping out around here. I am yearning for my lilacs. I think they are going to be early this year. My eighty-nine year old father says that winter is definitely over! He has planted a flower and vegetable garden every spring for as far back as he can remember 🙂 I showed him your blog and he enjoyed your lovely photos too. Thanks for getting us in the mood for spring.

  50. Cyndi Harp in NC says:

    I love your garden, epically the picket fence. Last fall I had a large area cleared in my backyard. When I saw how empty it was I was in shock! Then the more I looked at it I started seeing my garden, fruit trees and blueberry bushes and whatever else I can put back there. *L* I always wanted the picket fence and since it doesn’t work for my yard I think the garden area is perfect. Of course it won’t keep the deer or the rabbits out and I don’t want to. I plan to make them their own garden. If they get in the fenced area it’s ok too. I love to watch them. There will be plenty for everyone. Maybe not this year but in years to come. Take care all.

  51. Linda in Texas says:

    Enjoyed seeing your gardens. I too fell in love with that picket fenced garden from your Summer Book.

    I had a huge lavender plant when we lived in Dallas, but sadly had to move away from it. I haven’t tried one here yet. Maybe this year.

  52. Nellie says:

    Yours is such a pretty garden, Susan! Ours is 30 feet x 60 feet, and there is no picket fence. Rather, there is a split rail-type fence along one side where the blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries grow. My husband will have a variety of good things planted as soon as the earth dries out enough from all the rain we have had recently. He has bought seed potatoes and other seedlings already. We have been able to enjoy the greens that were planted last fall for most of the winter because it has been very mild here in Knoxville, TN. In fact, we still have some lettuce keeping in the refrigerator. The garlic patch is looking good, too. We will plant onions, green beans, and tomatoes along with spinach and squash.

    Thank you for showing us the pleasure of working in the earth! xoxo

    • sbranch says:

      Do you use all of this yourself, or do you have a little roadside stand? It sounds wonderful!

  53. Jen says:

    Thought of you tonight on my walk! I was listening to Pandora and Ella Fitzgerald sang “Happiness is a thing called Joe”. It made me smile. Have you heard the song? It had been a long time for me and I just love when I am reminded of great songs!!

  54. Sue R. says:

    A few years ago well quite a few years ago my husband and I were driving to lake Lopez just outside of Arroyo Grande. We passed this house with this beautiful garden with a picket fence around it. I thought that looks just like the pictures of Susan Branch’s garden. Then I found out that you had bought a house in Arroyo Grande and I always thought it must have been your garden I saw, then you opended your store there, so everytime my husband and I would go to the central coast for a few days we would go to your store and then drive to Lake Lopez. I miss your store it was always worth the 3 hour drive. We still go there occasionally, I’m trying to talk my husband into moving there when he retires later this year. I loved your post and love seeing your garden either in pictures or when I drive by.
    Sue from Canyon Country

    • sbranch says:

      I have never in my life experienced a better weather pattern than in that AG house. It’s almost always somewhere around 70 degrees. The ocean keeps it just cool enough, and about 5 degrees cooler than San Luis Obispo, which is a tiny bit further from the sea and can get very hot. That area has all kinds of different weather, but that valley is heaven . . . especially where we were — just out of reach of the fog — and not so far out that it got hot. You will love it!

  55. Becky Pingrey says:

    I <3 this post. We are planning to put in a picket fence and I was struggling with whether to paint it or leave it natural. Now, I know stain is the answer!!! Thank you for the great tip!
    Can't wait for the hummingbirds to return to my garden in Colorado!

  56. Jennie says:

    Inspiring! And right on time: my sweet Grammie sent a package yesterday containing clothes for my boys and SEEDS for me!! A plethora of soft-colored poppies, larkspur, holly hocks, snap dragon, cosmos. Can’t wait to be safe from frost and scatter those first seeds!

  57. Nancy L says:

    I don’t believe this Susan! I so enjoyed your pictures of your beautiful fenced in garden and was so excited to read all about your flowers and gardens. So after reading yours, I am in such a garden mood that I decide to look through some of my favorite garden magazines. I have tons – I never throw any of them away. And what do I open up and see….but your garden and that exact same map of it in a Country Living Gardener, June 1997!! But the first page is a picture of your house. When I looked at it, I thought it looked familiar and when I turned the page, I gave a little scream (hubby says what’s the matter?) and I say, It’s Susan’s and how can this be that I just read about it on your blog and I open up an old magazine and find it there within 15 min. of each other! About this time of year when I’m so anxious for spring to come in Illinois I dig out garden magazines to dream over. I wish that magazine was still published as it was such a good one, too! and I always enjoyed reading Cassandra Danz in it, too. Has anyone ever read her articles on gardening or her books? She’s so funny.

    Well, I just wanted you to know how exciting my night has been….what are the odds of seeing something in a 14 yr old magazine that I just enjoyed reading about on a blog? It was like winning a lottery! This really happened…I’m not lying!


  58. Heidi Rose (Issaquah, WA) says:

    I absolutely adoooooore your garden! My two parakeets have just joined in warbling along with the online birdy music. 🙂 They love your post too!!

  59. Diane says:

    Thanks so much for the wonderful garden tips! I manage a group home and I’ve been thinking of planting a garden as an activity for my resident this Spring, so you’ve really inspired me to get planning! We have have a couple of spots we can use, but gee, the white picket fence just looks sooo cute- I’d love to have one, but our landlord is a real curmudgeon, so that might be too much to hope for!

    I just love your beautiful house on the vineyard! I’m here in Ma too- right on the RI line, so we’re neighbors! 🙂

  60. When we bought our house our realtor said that putting in a picket fence because houses with a picket fence sell the fastest. Despite that I have always loved picket fences. We didn’t put a fence in but have garden sections with plants and flowers. I haven’t planted food yet cause of our squirrels. We’ve been here over 14 years and there is always more to think and do here.

    • sbranch says:

      We have squirrels and they never seem interested in the garden. They like the bird feeders. Bunnies like our garden!

  61. Carla says:

    Just a quick question Susan, what to you use to cover the paths between the raised beds to prevent weeds from growing?

  62. erin says:

    It’s such a charming garden. I love to visit your blog, gives me a feeling of seeing a different world 🙂

  63. Susan Martin from Orwigsburg, PA says:

    I was so excited to see this post! This year is the year of my kitchen garden. My brother is going to dig out the dirt and put down the hardware cloth, and then refill it with dirt, and then put in 4 raised beds, and surround it with a white picket fence with a gate! Heaven on earth… I started my herbs in the house already, and have my planning book with sketches sitting on the table so that hubby (mine is Joe, too!) can help me decide what to plant. I just can’t wait! (And it’s all because of the picture I saw in The Summer Book in the 90’s) Thank you, Susan!

    • sbranch says:

      You are going to just love it. I’ve been out working in mine today and even though right now there are no flowers, it’s still fun getting it ready and thinking about it. My chives are up, and the rosemary survived the winter — easier than usual this year!

  64. Tamar Weaver says:

    the grass in both your yards is very pretty. do you mind sharing what type of grass it is?

    • sbranch says:

      I asked Joe; it was a mix he put together, Kentucky blue grass and red fescue and, he says helpfully, “something else.” That’s in California. On the island it’s “Cape Cod Mix.”

  65. CLaire Hardy says:

    Dear Susan,
    I always wanted to creat the same type of garden that I first saw in the “Summer Book” and while I had a poor imitation of it THIS year I am going forward and I will have one…plus a pergola. My husband passed away last Spring and so I will be able to afford to create the garden. He and I talked endlessly about it and so now I can make it a reality…thank you for the extra pictures. I did have a question…several months ago you had pictures on your blog of a pergola…was that your pergola and if so, do you have the plans for it or know where can get them. Thank you again for giving me something to focus on that will honor my husband and will bring me great joy!

    • sbranch says:

      I don’t have plans for the pergola . . . but I’m sure I’ll be putting up more photos of it. What a beautiful way to remember your husband!!

  66. I live in Eastern Idaho…. and it is UNFORGIVING. BRUTAL, and DECEPTIVE on gardens. Can you imagine having to put black tires around your tomato plants along with walls of water to keep them warm??

    – It looked a bit homely at first, but when My garden started to flourish, and the tomatoes sat on the tires, it actually was quite cute! Sunflowers sprung up sporadically thanks to birds and squirrels. And my flowers added the right charm that made the tire eye sores, a little less bleak!

    I love your quotes about gardening. I love staring at your art. My face is smiling at the thought of the lilacs heralding in spring set against the brown, tilled earth waiting to grow my seeds.

    And by the way– the other day, I ALMOST streamlined my drawers and journals and closets by throwing away bunches of dried up flowers that kept falling out of everything and your post saved them! Bless your heart!

    I will rethink what they mean! And find safer homes for them!!

  67. Cathy in Golden, CO says:

    This may sounds nuts but I actually miss the soreness I feel when I’ve worked several hours in the garden! I wake up after that first day so sore and barely able to move. OOOH OUCH – my legs and behind – whew!!! I just know I accomplished 2 things at once!!!! Gardening feels so good with the sun on your back, mild breezes, smell of the earth and the anticipation of pretty flowers and healthy eating. I think I have Spring Fever!!!!

  68. I’m so glad I went back to see this post that I missed, Susan. Your CA and MA gardens are so lovely! They are just the right size for one person to take care of and I love all the effort Joe put in helping you make your dream a reality!

    I am also a gardener at heart, although my city house has very little property and mainly cement. I garden is flower pots of all sizes ..I even have a five foot fig tree growing in a large pot! I grow raspberries, blueberries, lilacs, clematis, herbs , tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and squash in flower pots. I may never have a white picket fence garden but my assortment of flower pots keep me happy!



  69. Barb says:

    Hello Susan,

    Thank you for sharing the beautiful layout of your picket fence garden. Oh I never met a “flower or plant” I did not like. I have been gardening since I was knee high to a grasshopper as they say.

    This year will bring on a new exciting challenge for myself and my husband. We have always had homes with much land and great soil. We have now downsized to a duplex. Yet we still have a nice yard, however much more shade as we are surrounded by woods. Therefore we are going to put in (raised beds) for the very first time. Our landlords are wonderful people and said we may do however we please. Its very exciting to think of everything we can plant.

    I really enjoyed all the other comments and tips as well for drying flowers. Like you Susan, I have dried my flowers the same way for years between books. Yet if you wanted to save an entire group of flowers, you may cut them and then use jute or an elastic to tie the bottoms of the stems together and then hang them upside down in a cool dry place. I always did this with my lavender. Another way also to dry lavender is using the same method as above, but poke holes in brown paper lunch bags and then I stored them in a container in a cool place. I have made many arrangements with the lavender or lavender sachets. I love lavender.

    I also enjoy PussyWillows to. I grew up with the tradition of seeing whom could find the first PussyWillows of Spring beside seeing the first Robin. I have a question for you on this Susan. Have you ever tried to color in PussyWillows with a type of chalk ie pastels? I saw an arrangement like this in an office and it was beautiful but I have never tried to color them in and was thinking on doing this.

    Well I thank you very much for making my day always happy. Happy Gardening!

    Barb in Ludlow, MA

    • sbranch says:

      I have pussy willows in the living room right now. No, I’ve never tried to color them, although I just poured the most beautiful liquid that my beets were cooking in down the drain wishing that we should “dye” something with it! Thank you for the drying information!

  70. maybaby says:

    Oh I absolutely cannot wait. It was unseasonably warm here in St. Paul all weekend, highs in the 60’s!, and I so wanted to go out and dig in my dirt.

    In one of the photos of your garden I spied a tag sale in your yard, oh my goodness, was it yours? I would jump on a plane to go to one of your tag sales!

  71. Susan Simon says:

    After two weeks of not being able to access your blog, I finally get to catch up on what you have been posting! Love, love, love the pictures of your garden and the plans and dreams you have had for it. Although it is only March, we have chives pushing up in the herb box, and crocuses and daffodils flowering and ready to burst into bloom. I cannot hardly wait to get back out in the garden and plant the tomatoes, the rosemary, basil, tarragon and and peppers… and to watch the hydrangea and peonies bursting with blooms! Our spring seems to have sprung… hope it isn’t a cruel joke of Mother Nature. I will be studying your garden plan to see if I can make any adaptations to ours. Thank you, Susan, for all the wonderful inspiration you give each of us!

  72. Wendy Louise says:

    Dear Susan, I am very excited because my Kitchen Garden is in the hunting and gathering stage. The picket fence is on order, the plot of land is staked out, and we will be digging up the lawn very soon. I was wondering what you used for the forms of the raised beds? I was thinking it was wood but what kind? This project is so much fun every step of the way and a dream come true, and future fun for a long time. There I said it, you see we have been through a scary two years, first my soul mate husband was diagnosed with Lymphoma and then myself with Anal Cancer. Both a very rare kind. We were treated and now are recovered and ready to carry on ! Friends and Family were terrific during this. But you my dear computer blogging friend have a way of touching my spirit inside and give it a cute wonderful push ! I thank-you from the bottom of my heart ! XXXOOO

    • sbranch says:

      So happy for you both! Love hearing the joy in your voice!

      I just asked Joe — he says the raised beds were made with 1 x 6 cedar boards (rot resistant) with 2 x 2 supports at the corners and in the middle. Good luck with it, you’re going to love it!

  73. MaryAnn says:

    Such fun to see the Country Living pages. I have a file that I put clippings that I want to save from magazines–ideas, inspiration, quotes, recipes. I saved your Country Living pages–that is how I first became a Susan Branch fan! What a fun memory.Thanks for sharing them on your wonderful blog. You continue to inspire me!

  74. Patricia Cash says:

    Susan, I truly enjoy all of your photos. I take a lot of nature photos and
    live in the Shenandoah Valley of VA. So I love the ones you share of the
    water and buildings.
    I have been looking for your Full Moon Bookmark and can’t seem to
    get back to it. It was on your Jan 4 post. Can you help.
    Thank you so very much for sharing your beautiful website.

  75. Susan Ericksen says:

    I absolutely LOVE your style of art….I too am a watercolor artist and I am finding so much love, inspiration and motivation for myself, when I am looking
    at your website, and the Willard letters….I always feel so light and happy after I have viewed your work. You and I have many similarities…growing up in the 50’s, cooking, gardening and the ARTWORK…….Thank you for what you have given me…contentment in the work I do when looking at the work you do…♥♥♥
    Always, with paintbrush in hand!!!!

  76. Janice Messick says:

    I so love your Willards and look forward to each one. I love your pictures and drawings and sometimes mentally transport myself to Martha’s Vinyard – a place I have never visited but would love to one day.

  77. Lisa says:

    I can get lost for hours on the weekend, digging in the dirt. I catch up on NPR podcasts or listen to music. My grandfather and grandmother used to make homemade tomato sauce ever year with their garden tomatoes. I am not as ambitious, but I carry on the tradition of eating from the garden well into October.

  78. Judy says:

    I live in Australia but was introduced to the joys of Susan via my dear sister who lived near New England. We have, together, drooled over your books, artwork, creativity, calendar (she buys herself & me one every year for Christmas!) & Willards! We are topsey-turvey here….just starting Autumn after a surprisingly wet summer. When I see photos of snow on white picket fences I am in awe! We both simply love everything you do. Thanks mate! (had to add that to set our accent in your head as you read this!)

  79. Kristine Damone says:

    A friend shared her Summer book with me and I fell in love with this garden. My 8 year old sons sold their swing set and used the money to help my husband buy the supplies to build a garden like this for me. (I’m a lucky girl.) That was back in September….sigh…I have been planning this garden for months now and am so excited to get started. Thanks for the inspiration and for making the world a more beautiful place. and by the way…I’m going to order my own copy of the book right now:o)
    Warm Regards,

  80. Lila says:

    Do you have deer that graze through your garden every day? How do you keep them from doing that since they manage to jump every fence we put up to keep them out. We live inside city limits so there is not much we can do to them other than tolerate their presence. We live in SW Washington about 30 minutes from the Ocean and have a lot of timber land around us which is where the deer make their home. Some day I will have a garden that looks like yours, but until then I am just going to pretend your garden is mine also. I love to read about your spring weather… we are still having hail, snow, and yesterday 2 inches of rain. Thanks for brightening our day!

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