Gardening: Right-sizing your planting plans

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

Several weeks ago a Facebook friend, garden writer and social media guru announced she was stricken with an autoimmune disease that brought an end to her ability to dig in her garden. In spite of this devastating news, she was upbeat and up for challenges she would be facing.

And, true to her nature, she did not sit around mourning the slow and painful demise of her extensive gardens filled with fabulous collections of plants acquired from all around. She is a popular speaker at garden events and trade shows throughout the season — just the places to pick up the newest and best blooms.

Within weeks of her diagnosis and announcement that her digging days were over, she decided to throw a joyous gifting event. Knowing that she was no longer able to care for her lavish and lovely gardens she decided get on with process of “repurposing” her yard and planned the mother of all plant giveaways to take place in a single weekend. This diva of social media used all the apps she had available and got on the horn to announce and invite all who could make it to bring shovels, boxes and bags and partake in her great giveaway party. Sharing her beloved plants with other gardeners who would be thrilled to love and care for them would bring far better memories than watching them slowly wither away from lack of care.

I have no doubt my Facebook friend is already in search of products and techniques and working with developers to allow her to grow a fabulous patio garden that doesn’t require digging.

Garden writer Kerry Ann Mendez, author of several books, including “The Ultimate Gardener’s Top Ten List” (Lone Pine Press, $23.95), has been teaching the art of low-maintenance gardening and landscaping for years. But this avid gardener’s talent and expertise were truly put to the test when her husband and garden helper suffered a neck injury ending his ability to work or do physical labor. So Kerry left her gardening activities for a full-time job that paid benefits. With new demands on her time and energy, she used her expertise to re-work her extensive gardens into what she calls “The Right-Size Flower Garden” (St. Lynn’s Press $18.95), the title of her new book that provides her recipe for a garden you too can manage and love. Simple designs, easy-care plants and energy saving shortcuts are all part of the mix. It’s the solution for both the experienced and beginning gardener.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at