Habit + Habitat: Susan Driver
Ever wonder what the folks at terrain do when we're not in the garden? In our monthly series, Habit + Habitat, we're finding out by asking one person to share a favorite habit and a beloved habitat. This month, we’re chatting with horticultural expert Susan about her favorite plants and places in the garden.
terrain: What is your role at terrain? Can you describe your typical day?
Susan: For the last 5 years, I've been part of the plant buying team with a focus on seasonal items; fresh holiday styles make for the busiest season of the year. My favorite season, though, is late winter, when we have an assortment of flowering branches. I'm always looking for inspiration to share with our vendors as we collaborate on creating new styles. I also spend time looking for unusual items that aren't commonly found in retail. Currently, I’m in transition in my role at terrain; I'll be moving from buying to working with Fine Gardening. I’m really looking forward to being outside and getting my hands in the soil!
terrain: What’s the one word that describes your habit, and one that describes your habitat?
Susan: For my habit, saving dried seed heads and pods from my garden: tidy (although less and less the older I get!) For my habitat, my shade garden: family.
terrain: How did you start saving specimens from your garden?
Susan: Piet Oudolf’s perspective on design and his plant lists are a huge inspiration. I don’t cut back all my perennials in the fall since so many of them have great winter interest. When it comes time to clean up the garden in spring I can’t part with the most intriguing ones, so I save them.
terrain: What are some of the most special specimens in your seed collection?
Susan: My favorites are the allium varieties. Some of them have stems 4’ tall and others, like the A. schubertii, have big, sparkler-like heads that are 9” wide. I can’t resist the fertile fronds from ostrich ferns and have a pile of them in my garage, along with the dried heads of Hydrangea quercifolia. Both have a gorgeous, velvety brown color.
terrain: What tips would you offer to people who’d like to start saving seeds or pods in their gardens?
Susan: I would encourage gardeners to think about the plants that look good while they are dormant and try keeping them through the winter. At any point, cut the really cool-looking stems to bring inside. For inspiration, look at images of any of Piet Oudolf’s gardens in the fall and winter. And the book Seedheads in the Garden by Noel Kingsbury is a great guide.
terrain: Why do you especially enjoy shade gardening?
Susan: I love foliage-- if I had to choose between flowers or foliage on a plant it would be foliage. Shade gardening doesn’t offer as many flowering plants, so I get to play around with texture and size in the more limited color palette that foliage provides.
terrain: How has your shade garden changed over the years? What are you planning to plant this spring?
Susan: The biggest change was when a tree came down. It let more light into one of the gardens so I could add plants that required some sun. Plus, I also like to “rearrange” the garden by moving things around. And I am always enlarging the beds to make room for new plants. This spring, I really need to put a lot back into the garden because so much of what I planted last year did not come back after our tough winter. Perennial euphorbias and ferns are at the top of my list, and there's always room for more hydrangea and boxwood!