Wow. Tuesday was fantastic. Rob Cardillo — an incredibly talented garden photographer — came by to capture some photos of the Outlaw Garden for an upcoming article in Organic Gardening Magazine. An incredible experience!

Was I nervous about the shoot? A professional photo shoot in my garden? Oh yes! This garden is only a few months old, and doesn’t have any of the fullness and grand structure that comes with age. There’s an empty spot where I want to plant a small peach tree (or a fig). Another corner is occupied by a sad little shrub that looks dead, and probably is. Also, Irene and Lee just dumped approximately six inches of rain on the garden, and it shows. The squash is covered in powdery mildew, the basil is pouting and the tomatoes are all exhausted.

Plus, there’s this one minor detail: No pro has ever aimed a camera lens at my plants before.

In short, I was totally intimidated.

I actually felt worse after looking at Rob’s portfolio. His images are amazing. Award-winning, even. And, he’s photographed some incredible gardens and estates from all over. I couldn’t help thinking how my little renegade vegetable garden must look awfully shabby when compared to the likes of Chanticleer.

So, I did what I could to prepare. Rob emailed me in advance, and asked that I “tidy” the yard. I think he was hoping I’d put away the hose and mow the lawn. I took things a bit further: I spent three days planting, pruning and preening. I added some fall perennials and relocated a couple potted plants. I even dosed the worn-out tomatoes with another round of kelp meal, in hopes of… well… I’m not sure exactly. A sudden burst of growth, and a miraculous overnight ripening of fruit? Yeah, that’s probably exactly what I was hoping for. Logic and rationality had clearly fled the garden. In an email, I told my editor that I’d been trying to ripen my tomatoes through sheer willpower. I’m fairly sure she thought I was kidding.

But, despite all the preparations, the garden Rob saw Tuesday morning was really the same Outlaw Garden my neighbors have been walking past for months. Yes, I’d added a few new plants and pulled out a few spent ones, but this is nothing unusual for an end-of-summer, first-year garden. The new plants — all flowering native perennials — had been on my plant-this-fall list before I even knew about the photo shoot. If Rob weren’t coming, it might have taken three weeks to accomplish what I finished in three days. But, that’s just a question of timing and procrastination. I didn’t do anything special to prepare for Rob’s visit. I just did everything a little faster.

Tuesday morning arrived. And, round about sunrise, so did Rob. We toured the garden, chatted about tomatoes and commiserated about the recent Irene- and Lee-inspired deluges. I learned that Rob is a gardener too, which instantly eased my nerves. He even blogs about it sometimes.

A brick path runs through the Outlaw Garden, past nasturtiums, chives and coreopsis.

A brick path runs through the Outlaw Garden, past nasturtiums, coreopsis and a little path-side hill of herbs.

My fears about how the Outlaw Garden would compare to regal estates proved unfounded. Rob did compare the two, but only to say how nice it is to visit a lived in garden, and how strange it is sometimes to photograph gorgeous but empty estates. The powdery mildew? Not an issue. Instead, Rob commented on my little hill of herbs and complimented the mixed border of basils, gem marigolds and purple bush beans. There’s certainly plenty that’s not perfect in this garden. But, Rob reminded me that it’s all in how you look at things. Rather than seeing the spent tomato plants, he noticed the violently blooming scarlet runner beans and the sweet potatoes that are overflowing their bushel baskets. It was delightful to walk through the garden and see — with Rob’s help — what was doing well, rather than what needs doing.

After our quick tour, Rob got to work and I retreated into the house, out of the way of his camera lens. He spent nearly two hours in the garden, working with camera, tripod and countless lenses. I wonder what the neighbors thought…

I haven’t seen Rob’s photos of the Outlaw Garden. I don’t know, but I might not see them until the piece is printed next year. I don’t mind. I’m sure the photos are fabulous, and the wait will certainly be worth it. In the meantime, I’m enjoying a little break from the weeding and pruning.

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10 Rules for Breaking the Rules in Front Yard Vegetable Gardens


10 Rules for Breaking the Rules in Front Yard Vegetable Gardens

Feeling rebellious? This guide includes ten tips that will help you plant a front yard vegetable garden without upsetting the neighbors or worrying the HOA board. 

Welcome, rule-breaker! You're nearly done — just check your email for instructions on claiming your free guide. Then, get ready to break some rules in the vegetable garden!

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