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Sub-Region: Northwest New Jersey  (USDA Zone 5b)
State: New Jersey
Business: Owner- Cultivating The Inner Gardener

Biographical Information

Lois J. de Vries is a field editor and location scout for Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Media, garden writer, and meaning coach who enjoys visiting other people's gardens, as well as working in her own. She has served on her local environmental commission for eight years, on the planning board for four years, and on the open space committee for three. Lois is writing two books: One on The Transformational Power of Gardening; the other on Cultivating the Inner Gardener.

Please tell us a little about your gardening related business. 
I established a gardener-focused coaching practice intended to bring more meaning to the experience of gardening. Cultivating the Inner Gardener is about putting gardeners in a mental space that allows them to develop an intimate, holistic relationship with their environment. Through a series of assignments and exercises gardeners learn how to rediscover and focus on the things that really matter to them, restore meaning to their gardening efforts, and revitalize a cherished pastime. For more details, visit cultivatingtheinnergardener.blogspot.com
Tell us briefly about your favorite cause/business/product in which you are involved that you would like to share with the general public and why.
I have two favorites. The first is my Cultivating the Inner Gardener coaching practice, because it is the first time anyone has thought to focus on the subconscious genius of ordinary gardeners. I'm very excited about being a pioneer in that arena. The second is helping people understand that we must work within the capacity of the land, if we want to avoid environmental problems.

Where can members get more of your advice?
My thoughts on gardening and the environment are on my blog: loisdevries.blogspot.com , and information on my coaching services is available at: cultivatingtheinnergardener.blogspot.com . In early 2010 Cultivating the Inner Gardener will launch as a cyberclass.

Background Information

Briefly describe the climate where you garden now (climate zone, state, area) and any other areas where you have gardened in the past.
My garden is in Northwestern New Jersey, in Zone 5B; I have also gardened in the mountains of North Carolina.

How long have you been gardening?
Since I was a very small child; 30+ years at my current home.

What triggered your interest?
I think childhood experiences in my grandmother's city garden and in my mother's country vegetable garden. I've always been interested in nature and always kept two or three houseplants as a child. Later, in my college apartment, which had great unobstructed southern exposure, I had a plant collection that numbered over 150.

What is your specialty, expertise or claim to fame?
My expertise is being able to ferret out what makes a particular gardener tick during an interview. The knowledge I gained from all of those interviews forms the basis of my specialty -- gardener-centric coaching.

Lois' Book Recommendations



by Robert Gillmore. I like this book because that's what I have. He offers lots of ideas for working with what's already there, as well as things you can do to improve the garden's appearance without spending a lot of money.
  by John Brookes.  So many landscaping books deal with small suburban lots in a development. This book deals with larger, more rural properties and how to integrate the look of your garden with the larger landscape that surrounds it. 


by Julie Moir Messervy
offers a holistic approach to creating a garden that resonates with some of my own ideas about the transformational power of gardening.


  Lois' Favorite Websites

Gardening Gone Wild
because of its pieces on garden photography, as well as the opportunity to cross-link to my own blog.

Garden Rant
for the entertainment value - those gals are very irreverent.

The Illustrated Garden
because Val Webb's artwork is just wonderful to see.

What formal education do you have?
AB in Geology from Rutgers University; college-level courses in Botany; Land Ethics Symposia attendee.
What is your favorite garden or plant-related topic? Tell us a little about them.
My favorite garden-related topic is The Transformational Power of Gardening -- how gardeners are changed by the act of working to change their gardens.

What is your biggest gardening pet peeve? Tell us about it.
Landscapers who still install invasive species, such as Japanese Barberry or Burning Bush, as foundation plantings. These plants have invaded New Jersey's remaining forests because birds and small mammals spread their prolific seeds far and wide. Readily available native alternatives for Japanese Barberry are Witch Alder, New Jersey Tea, or Virginia Sweetspire; for Burning Bush, substitute Black Chokeberry, Highbush Blueberry, or Fragrant Sumac.

How much time per week do you spend gardening?
I depends on the time of year, how busy I am, and what garden projects are active. I try to do 30 minutes of maintenance per day, and four to eight hours per weekend when practical; but I've been known to max out at 28 hours in four days.

How much time per week do you spend working at the business of gardening,such as consulting, reading, writing or talking about your gardening subject?
I try for a steady three-to-four hours per day as a minimum.

What gardening or horticultural clubs, societies, or organizations (or any other interest) do you belong to?
Garden Writers Association; Frelinghuysen Arboretum

Gardening Questions

What do you like most about gardening?
The ability to enter a separate world that shrinks problems into insignificance and magnifies the beauty of the natural world.

What do you dislike most about gardening?
I like everything about gardening, although the resulting aches and pains as I age are making me cut back and go more slowly.

What individual has influenced your gardening interest the most? How?
Each gardener I've met has contributed something to my own growth. I find all of the different approaches, perspectives, the how and why people garden endlessly fascinating.

What is your favorite place or activity in the garden?
My favorite activity is sitting in one of our many seating areas and enjoying the results of all my hard work.

What is your favorite time in the garden?
Early morning, when the birds are singing and it's cool and quiet. Late in the day, when the sun is low in the sky casting long shadows from my towering trees.

What is your favorite public or private garden in the world? Why?
Part of the fun of visiting gardens is that each one is so different, having been built by its owner for such individualistic reasons. For New Jerseyans, I recommend visits to Bamboo Brook and Willowwood , which are right next to one another; Wave Hill , Old Westbury Gardens and the New York Botanical Garden in New York; and, of course Longwood and Chanticleer in Pennsylvania. Out of area, I'd have to say Red Butte Gardens in Salt Lake City, and the Japanese and Chinese Gardens in Portland, Oregon, as well as the Oregon Gardens Resort in Silverton . I make it a point to visit public gardens in Europe wherever I travel.

What is your favorite color in the garden?
Cool colors -- blues, lavender and purple, burgundy reds; white tones in the White Garden. But there are also yellows, oranges, and pinks.

If you could grow only one plant, what would it be?
Rhododendrons and azaleas because they're evergreen, come in a wonderful array of colors, and require little maintenance after the first couple of years.

What plant have you tried to grow that has given you the most trouble? Or, what plant would you like to grow and can't, and why?
So many plants, so little time --- . Initially, roses gave me the most trouble. I can't say what changed, but one season, I just began to have success.

What is your favorite gardening outfit or costume?
Actually, I blogged about this once: http://loisdevries.blogspot.com/2008_04_01_archive.html. It's a luminous, white, flowing skirt and top that resembles something from the 1930s, but it's only for strolling 'round the garden, not for working in it.

Do you have a gardening philosophy you would like to share with other gardeners? What is it?
Check in with the Inner Gardener, who knows exactly what to do to create a garden that speaks to your soul. 

Who is your own favorite gardening personality on TV, radio or in print? Why?
These people are my peers. Each has something different to offer and I learn new things from each of them.

What is the one question about gardening you would really like people to ask you?
How can I make my gardening experience more meaningful?
And what's the answer?
By Cultivating the Inner Gardener. 

What is a garden myth you hear frequently which you know is untrue?
The myth is to water once a week.

And, what is the reality?
The reality is, indoors or outdoors, that you have to water when water is needed. There are so many variables, the weather, how much sun your garden/plant gets, how much rain you've had, etc. There's no substitute for experience.

What group or kind of person do you think would benefit most from the advice you can give on gardening?
In general, people who have been gardening for a while and want something more than just horticultural advice. Also, professionals such as landscape architects and designers who may have lost touch with the reasons they chose their careers in the first place.

Would you like to participate, or can you recommend someone who you think should? We're always looking for more expert gardeners to tell about their philosophies and give their plant recommendations contact us and we'll get started.

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