I am so happy to introduce you to my friend Andy Keys. Andy’s is a first-rate plant know-it-all and his first book (soon to be followed by another) is out this month. In Why Grow That When You Can Grow This?: 255 Extraordinary Alternatives to Everyday Problem Plants he inspires readers to think outside of the tried and not necessicarily true garden stalwarts that we all have a tendency to buy. I wholeheartedly endorse the message of breaking out of a rut, trying something new and mixing it up — even if all that means is making some new planting decisions. – rochelle
My style inside and out is a smorgasbord of easygoing, elegant decay. I like things a little wild, a little worn, a little gone to seed. I try to color inside the lines of design principles enough to keep it cohesive and still leave room for experiments. I always mix styles, but I always make reference to nature, with dashes of Modernism, and quirk that stops short of comedy.
I live in an old colonial in the center of a bucolic Massachusetts town, so my garden here is a mashup of my response to that, through the scope of my individual taste, my lust for plants, and my need to test out plants and design ideas. (Right now, I’m obsessed with mixing grasses and plants with bold foliage.) It’s a wild collection, hemmed in just enough by design basics: lots of oddities, lots of grasses, perennials, deciduous trees and shrubs, a few key conifers. It’s not no-maintenance, but it’s low-maintenance in the sense that I do virtually nothing to it during the growing season beyond a periodic weeding. My “one day” garden would be a bit more finished in terms of bones—hardscaping and whatnot—and where I’ve found that sweet spot between simplicity in plant palette and a mixture of many plants.
YES! My book was inspired by my sentimentality for plants! I grew up in the South—Mississippi, not far from New Orleans—and even though Boston is definitely home now, I’ve pined for the plants of my youth I can’t grow outdoors here: sweet olive, live oak, scrub palmetto, star jasmine, star anise, gardenia, longleaf pine. My inability to grow those plants (or at least grow them well) inspired me to search out new favorite plants I could grow that tugged at my heartstrings in the same way. It seemed like the kind of thing other people might relate to. The book comes out in November, so we’ll see!
I grew up playing in the woods behind my house, and I remember vividly playing in loose understory groves of some ancient devil’s walking stick (a plant I grow now). I also remember the first time I found wild mountain laurel in bloom, and the same with star anise—they were so weird and wonderful, and like nothing anyone was growing in their yards.
images andrew keys