ISSUE 32  |  Down Under

Best Amateur Garden Winner: Molly Boxer

August 15, 2014 6:30 PM

BY Meredith Swinehart

The winner of the Gardenista Considered Design Awards Best Amateur Garden is Molly Boxer of Richmond, Massachusetts.

The project was chosen as a finalist by Gardenista editor-in-chief Michelle Slatalla, who said: “In many ways this is a modern descendant of Vita Sackville-West’s original white garden. The snowy punctation of color–it’s really nothing more than the reflection of light, a reminder of how green everything else is. Also, I’m a sucker for astilbe, those straight-backed soldiers that march on bravely in the heat.” 

Take a look below and read what Boxer has to say about her impromptu gardening style, her favorite local nurseries, and her biggest garden splurge. 

N.B.: This is one of a series of posts spotlighting the winners of the Gardenista Considered Design Awards. We’ll be featuring one winning project every weekday. Go to the 2014 Considered Design Awards to see all the entries, finalists, and winners. And have a look at the winners of the Remodelista Considered Design Awards, too.

Molly Boxer’s Design Statement: My garden is filled with texture and shape, curved paths, and areas for sitting, as well as plants, objects, and often people that I love. A gardener’s garden, it is not about perfection but process. It has evolved over the past 31 years, becoming simpler and cleaner as my needs and tastes change.

Q: Where do you live?
A: I live in Richmond, Massachusetts, a small rural community in the Berkshires. Our house, a gem from 1809, sits on nine acres of wooded and open land, overlooking Berkshire hills and wetlands. My gardens have expanded over the last few years to more than an acre.

Q: What was your biggest splurge?
A: Four or five years ago I finally convinced my husband to build a pool. He now thinks it is the best thing we ever did. I somehow thought I would spend all my free time lounging around and swimming, but as it happens, the pool is more of a garden feature to me. I am far more likely to be pulling weeds than sitting and relaxing.

Q: What were your practical goals for the project?
A: For me, gardening is all about the process–I rarely have specific goals in mind when I start a project. Most days I walk out the door and am drawn to one area or another and dig right in. If I’m lucky, I am wearing gardening shoes.

Q: What advice do you have for someone else undertaking a similar project? 
A: Follow your passion! Discover what it is you really love in a garden and how much time you want to spend in it. You also need to work with your site, whether it’s wooded with a lovely stream or open and sunny. You might want a killer vegetable garden, a beautiful row of day lilies, or a place to hang out with family and friends. The best gardens are those that reflect the interests of the homeowners, and that continue to grow and change as your needs and interests change.

Q: Where do you get your design inspiration?
A: I would have to say the biggest inspiration comes from the land itself, and seeing which plants thrive in each location. As a self-taught gardener, I work through trial and error. Thank goodness plants are such good sports about moving around.

Q: What is your day job?
A: I was a French teacher for many years, which had the added benefit of summers off. My passion for gardening brought me to the Berkshire Botanical Garden, where I was executive director for 3½ years. My focus there was purely administrative, creating and overseeing programming, events, and opportunities to advance the garden’s mission of horticultural education and stewardship of the land.

Q: What is your favorite local shop?
A: I am always inspired when I visit any of my favorite local nurseries. For a quick fix, I go to Country Caretaker in Canaan, NY, right around the corner. They have a great selection of perennials, vegetables, and annuals. For shrubs and trees I go to Windy Hill in Great Barrington, MA. They have an impeccable selection and it’s rare that I walk away empty-handed. There are many more nurseries that I love, too numerous to mention.

Q: What projects would you tackle if you had an unlimited budget?
A: A stone patio right outside my kitchen door, with herb gardens and stone walls. Next would be a dwarf apple orchard, and a row of espaliered pear trees.

Q: What is your best secret design source?
A: I love visiting other gardens and am inspired by the creativity and passion of fellow gardeners. My biggest inspiration is visiting nurseries and seeing all the amazing plants they have to offer–particularly perennials, trees, and shrubs. Contrary to all sound advice, I rarely go with a plan. But I’m always delighted by how well everything I choose fits together in my wagon, and later on when I figure out where things might go in my garden.

Q: What is your next project?
A: I would like to be able to say that there won’t be another project in the garden. In fact I have said this many times, but each year I somehow feel the need to make one garden a little bigger, or create a new space along a stone wall or along a hemlock hedge. I will say that I am attempting to simplify and edit the garden: more trees, fewer flowers.

Congratulations to Molly Boxer! See all the winners of the 2014 Gardenista Considered Design Awards here: