Thursday, June 18, 2020

How gardening is like quilting

If you have been following my blog for a while, you probably noticed that every spring I desert the sewing room to head to the garden.  This year was no exception. We had a really nice spring for gardening, not too hot, not too wet or dry, not buggy.  It was great to get out of the house and breathe.

Dwarf spruce, hosta, white impatiens

We finished all the heavy work and except for keeping up with weeding and watering, now we can just go outside and enjoy the peace and quiet.  As I sat in the yard and enjoyed the color and texture of the garden, and savored the satisfaction of having tidied up every single flower bed this year (unlike the previous several years), it occurred to me that gardening actually has a lot in common with quilting.

When I choose fabric for a quilt, I consider colors, values and scale. In my garden, green rules, but I make sure there are accent colors.  I have perennials that bloom at different times, and some annuals that bloom all summer to make sure there is always a bloom to add an accent pop of color or contrast, like in a quilt.  Even in the green, there is a wide variety: deep greens, gray greens, yellow greens...  Let's not forget variegation for a little extra interest, like the print on a tone on tone fabric.

Hostas, impatiens and ornamental grass

Pattern scale come into play as well.  Small leaves, big leaves, medium leaves fill in for the size of the print on pretty fabrics.  Texture is there as well:  fuzzy leaves, smooth leaves, blade-like leaves and big heart shaped ones, serrated edges and smooth edges.  They all play together to create movement and interest just like the different prints work together in a quilt.

I love playing with layout in my quilts and I do this in the garden as well.  The eye prefers groupings and repetition, so I plan out groups of plants, and reuse varieties in different places to tie different parts of the garden together.  Some of my flower beds are a bit like a sampler quilt, with one of this, and one of that.  Some parts end up a little bit "improv" as I divide plants and just need somewhere to put the divisions but don't have a plan.  Some parts are more formal, with similar plants in a line or an arc.

Redbud tree surrounded by yellow daylilies

"Orphan blocks" get a chance to shine in the garden too.  This redbud tree was an orphan.  It was literally a stick with a root attached, no more than half and inch in diameter and 2 feet tall.  My daughter brought it home from Girl Scout day camp many years ago.  We plunked it onto a bucket of water beside the house because we couldn't figure out where to put it, then promptly forgot about it.  A month later, we remembered it and decided to throw it out, only to discover it had grown leaves.  How could we possibly get rid of it then?  I researched red buds, picked a spot and now it is the centerpiece of this little bit of yard.

Look at those yellow daylilies.  They are part of the plant stash.  Yup, there's a stash in the garden too, in the form of perennials.  Perennials grow bigger, then need to be divided, and voila!  New plants for a new flowerbed.  All those lilies are from divided plants, as are all the hostas below. And lamb's ear.  That stuff just grows and grows anywhere! I wish fabric reproduced like that.  Oh wait!  The scraps in the scrap bin seem to do that. 

Hostas and inpatiens

Even the gardening tasks have quilting equivalents.  Edging beds is like trimming units and blocks: it's tedious, but makes such a difference to the finished piece. Weeding is like trimming threads.  Mulching. Well, it isn't quite analogous to basting, but I like doing that necessary task about as much as I enjoy basting a quilt, also a necessary chore.  I don't know which part of quilting watering matches up with. I can only carry this analogy so far!

Finally, sitting quietly and admiring the tidy, blooming garden gives me the same kind of satisfaction as putting the last stitches into a quilt binding and curling up under the quilt for the first time. I'm sure as the summer  heat and humidity kick in I'll migrate back to the sewing room during the day, but I'll keep enjoying the yard in the mornings and evenings.  

I'll leave you with a few more garden photos to enjoy until I have more progress related to fabric to share.

Clump of white daisies

Pots of herbs and flowers


red and orange blanket flowers

Pot of purple fountain grass with pink flowers


  1. Loved checking out your gardening skills, it all looks great!!

  2. Your garden areas are beautiful! You are right about those day lilies--I've run out of places to put them when I divide them and have resorted to putting buckets of them on the curb to share with unsuspecting others--lol!

  3. Your garden is so beautiful, Joanne. Gorgeous

  4. Ahh, so peaceful and a feast for the eye. And so true! I loved this walk through your garden, which yes! really is a lot like making quilts. Love the stash/perennials link! We have been doing a lot of that 'stash use' this year as we work, well, mostly my husband, on making new beds, improving those he started last year or the year before. I love redbuds; getting one this fall is on my list to buy at the tree farm when their fall sale starts.

  5. Your garden is magnificent. I like your theory on how it relates to quilting. I've just started to garden this year, and I can see now why it appeals!

  6. Your flower beds are so beautiful. Mine are tended by mother nature. And doggone birds who leave poison ivy seeds to germinate (which, between that and ticks, are a large part of the reason my flower beds look deplorable - the other part is I'm lazy...and would rather be quilting...). But a tour of your beautiful space makes me think I should try harder. Maybe tomorrow? It's about 85 out there right the shade...

  7. Beautiful! I used to love being out and gardening... then I moved south and ... it is just too hot for me!

  8. Your flowers remind me of my mother's flower gardens. As I'm typing this, I'm wondering if your quilts inspire how you will plant your gardens, or if your flowers help you in creating new quilts with all the beautiful colors and shapes. Either way, both are beautiful! ---"Love"

  9. A fun post comparing two delightful hobbies. Having spent a couple of hours gardening today, I can add that both activities make my back ache. :)

  10. I love seeing your gardens, you do a wonderful job creating them. Oh to live where there is rain and moisture. Moving to NM from northern IL, gardening is hard. So much hot, dry, sunny weather. I so appreciate any moisture we do get. Enjoy your lovely yard! ! !

  11. Beautiful gardens! Thanks for sharing.

  12. I can see your comparisons, and I do some gardening, but the old body complains a lot so it's not too much fun. Luckily, I have quite a few perennials and some of the annuals make it through the winter here. I did buy some flowers for my fence basket planters yesterday and need to get them planted. Your yard is lovely!

  13. Your garden is gorgeous! I have some good years and some bad years. We've redone some beds in the last few years, and they are not doing as well as planned. They probably just need time, sometimes like a quilt needs to age in the UFO box! Thanks for sharing your garden . I'm new here...popped over from Deb A's blog.


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