Thinking outside the boxwood: 5 cures for the common garden

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March 26, 2012
By: Nan and Steele Arundel
Nan and Steele Arundel

Common: Vegetable Plot
Uncommon: Salvaged Steel Raised Beds

One of the great joys of summer in Minnesota is the abundance of fresh produce. We truly are spoiled with the breadth and depth of farmers markets, CSAs and roadside stands serving up just-picked corn, carrots and cukes! But if you are looking to keep your veggie consumption local, you can’t get much closer than your own backyard. Dedicating a section of your garden real estate to veggie production is a great way to experience the magic of simple seeds becoming table-ready food. Filled with nutritious soil, raised beds make vegetable gardening easy — they provide excellent drainage, prevent pests from stealing your harvest and make a plot much easier to manage (not so much back-bending). Raised beds made from salvaged steel provide a long-lasting and aesthetically striking option for the urban farmer … to see pictures and find out more about raised steel beds, check out

Uncommon: Do-It-Yourself Fountain

Garden art has its place (well, most garden art, thankfully pink flamingos seem to have gone the way of the dodo bird). The thing is, although bird baths, obelisks and friendly gnomes can add personality to your outdoor space, they are all static — they just sit there. With a few pieces of budget-friendly hardware, a little ingenuity, and a healthy dose of elbow grease, you can turn any stagnant piece of statuary into a flowing water feature that will attract thirsty birds while adding a big dose of peaceful charm to your garden space. If you have an old piece of garden art and a Saturday to spare, check out this simple how-to from Sunset:

Common: Growing plants
Uncommon: Growing minds

Beyond special plants and creative design, the really special thing about gardening is the way that it brings people together. Strolling neighbors stop by to visit and admire your hard work, fellow gardeners commiserate about the weather and share tips with one another and cut flowers from one garden can end up as the centerpiece on a friend’s kitchen table. A local group of community-minded book lovers has picked up on this idea of connection and created an organization dedicated to creating simple, accessible libraries in the most unexpected of places — your garden. Check out for inspiration and information on ordering a pre-built library or detailed directions on how to build your own.

Climbing Vines
Uncommon: Living Walls

Don’t get us wrong, we love big-blooming clematis, fragrant honeysuckle and a host of other beautiful and versatile climbing vines. For a long time these hardy creepers have been our go-to favorites for covering up garish garage walls or funky old fences. However, a new wave of products and do-it-yourself approaches are showing urban planters that gardens aren’t just for the ground anymore. Built by affixing planting vessels like old milk jugs or warehouse pallets to a vertical surface, living walls can add whimsical and eye-catching botanical art to both outdoor and indoor spaces. If you want to skip the DIY approach, Wooly Pockets are user-friendly felt and rubber pouches developed especially for living walls. Installation is easy — a screw into each corner of the pocket affixes it to the wall, a few scoops of potting soil fills the pouch, and your favorite annuals, herbs, or veggies add their splashes of life and color to your formerly hum-drum wall! For more info check out:

Patio Furniture   
Uncommon: A living tabletop

After growing all of your fresh vegetables you’ll need a place to sit down and enjoy eating them. Alfresco dining is a highlight of short Minnesota summers. Although meals shared on a picnic table or standard patio furniture can be lovely, imagine if your outdoor dining table included a permanent living centerpiece. Turning an old warehouse pallet into an outdoor dining table infused with greenery is a relatively easy DIY project that the inspired urban gardener can tackle in one weekend. Far Out Flora provides a great tutorial:

Nan and Steele Arundel are the husband-and-wife duo behind Landscape Love, a south Minneapolis-based landscaping and garden design / build company. They love being outdoors, searching for innovative garden solutions and helping clients create special outdoor spaces. For more information and links to the places where they find inspiration, check out