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The Zen of Gardening

In her latest book, "And I Will Have Some Peace There" Margaret Roach relays her journey to self-discovery and the zen of gardening 365 days a year.

Margaret Roach walked away from it all.  

In 2007, she left a successful career at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the rat-race of New York City for self-discovery and rejuvenation in her small weekend home on two and a half acres in a rural Columbia County, New York town bordering Connecticut and Massachusetts.

By connecting with her garden and with nature, she began leading a more authentic life, she said. She documented this journey in her newest book, "And I Shall Have Some Peace There," presented at the on Tues. March 29 in their Authors on Stage series, co-sponsored by

The audience assembled in the Lamb Room contained many avid gardeners eager for this year's spring to arrive, to allow them to get planting.  

Instead, they were treated to a different vision of what gardening can be. Roach's slide show of scenes from her 365-days-a-year garden included a buddha buried in snowdrifts, sculptural bare tree limb shapes, lacy fall leaves, grasses and berries, as well as plenty of lush spring and summer flowers, trees and vegetables.

"Look out the window," she said. "That's garden design 101. Place the garden where you can see it and appreciate it."

For Roach, making a garden is about developing an intimate relationship with a piece of land and its inhabitants — she has many frogs and snakes.  

"Creatures teach you a lot about gardening," she said, " and are the sign of a healthy garden."

It was this relationship that changed her from a two-days-a-week gardener to a 365 day one.  

"A garden," Roach said, "is like a long-distance love — you either break up or have to be together."

Roach started gardening as a child in her mother's garden. It was she said, the "proverbial riot of color" 1950s garden. She rediscovered gardening there as occupational therapy when she was in her twenties and moved into her mother's home to care for her when she developed early onset Alzheimer's at age 49.

Today she particularly loves mixing plants in the colors of red and green, combining plants lavishly and encourages gardeners to break the rules.  

A gardener's guru, Roach keeps her many fans updated with her blog, "A Way To Garden." It is full of practical advice, thoughtful inspirations, a podcast and beautiful photos.

It's fine to make mistakes, she said. Other lessons she shared; you have to grow it to know it, don't re-do or remove anything from the landscape until you know what's there, and nothing lasts because all things are ephemeral.

In my 30 years of gardening, Roach said, "I only know one thing — things will die."

Yet, in the "god light" she describes that radiates through the Hudson Valley, Roach peacefully watches her landscape evolve through seasons intwo month increments.

January and February are Inception, March and April are Birth, May and June are Youth, July and August are Adulthood, September and October are Winding Down, and November and December are Death and Afterlife.

"You complete me," said the gardener to her garden.

Nancy Helle April 04, 2011 at 02:33 PM
I was very pleased to read this article, especially since I missed Margaret Roach's talk at the library. Now I have a feeling for her philosophy which is inspiring. Nancy Helle
Deborah Thompson April 04, 2011 at 07:18 PM
I wished I could have attended but this piece gave me some insight and I can look at web site with a new perspective. Thank you!
Eugenie Diserio April 05, 2011 at 05:58 PM
Thank you for your comments! Margaret Roach's talk was really great and her website (www.awaytogarden.com) is wonderful. I could spend hours there.

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