{In the Garden} Q&A with Nancy Wallace of Wallace Gardens

Among the items available at Wallace Gardens are elegant containers such as this one.

Today I’m so very pleased to introduce you to Nancy Wallace, owner of Wallace Gardens in Georgia, and her design work. When she’s not in the garden or running her business, you can find her on Pinterest and Facebook and a few other places.

Nancy remains one of my fave garden pinners and I am thrilled to showcase her own designs here.

This Lemon cypress was once in a pot and now enjoys a permanent home in the landscape.

Can you tell us a bit about your company and what you do “in real life?”
Wallace Gardens is a recession-born business (2009), rising from the ashes of a garden store that I co-founded in 2001. My “recession story” was featured twice on National Public Radio. (Part 1Part 2) Many of my clients have been with me for almost a decade. Garden trends are always evolving, and everyone likes an occasional update in the landscape. I provide container garden services (including weekly maintenance) and custom-designed flower beds to a number of clients twice a year (spring and fall, which I describe as: “six month’s worth of work in six weeks, twice a year”). Most of my business is onsite container garden services and garden design / renovation services. I have a particular fondness for conifers, Japanese Maple trees, Viburnums, native flowering trees, and I try to include as many of these elements in my renovations as possible (including my favorite perennial, the Peony, which I like to use in abundance).

Nancy says she has a “foliage fetish.”

How did you get into this business? What lit the spark for you?
I grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains (above Silicon Valley, California), and spent my childhood running through manzanita shrubs and redwood forests. We often camped on top of the mountain when I was a kid, and built our own home while I was in high school over the course of a year. I made fairy houses and tree forts and created dolls out of found forest-objects. My love of nature was born on that mountain, and remains a part of my soul. As a young adult, I worked for a decade as a paralegal/legal secretary in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I learned a keen appreciation for client/customer services, managing deadlines, attending to details, and making sure I was profoundly organized. Those tools remain the keys to my business today.

I’ve been growing and experimenting with plants for as long as I can remember. I love garden quotes, which help to fan my passion (one of my favorites: “You’re not stretching yourself as a gardener if you’re not killing plants.” ~ J.C. Raulston), botanical illustrations of centuries past, and Victory Garden posters. Because I am detail-oriented, I am somewhat obsessive about botanical nomenclature (I’ve been known to spend hours researching a single plant…something I attribute to my life in the legal field). My parents and grandparents are/were all gardeners and home-canners, so I’ve been surrounded by people who grow things all my life. When I was in my 30’s I lived in Australia for three years, and traveled to many of the island nations in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, where I became even more enamored by the remarkable plant life in tropical and desert regions.

Azaleas on an estate in Suwanee, Georgia. The owner is a long-time Wallace Gardens client.

Tell us about Nancy “in real life,” beyond the garden and social media.
I am a single mother (of a UGA college graduate and a high school junior), and we’ve lived in the same house since 1992 on a heavily wooded lot of Oak, Beech, and Maple – so we cannot grow vegetables. Therefore, I garden vicariously with other online gardeners who are able to create edible masterpieces on their front lawns, and while this is not completely satisfying, I must say I love following the revolution of the Victory Garden even if I am not an active participant. I’m a passionate cook (when I have time), and even with a busy work schedule, I try to put a home made meal on the table every single night. Some time ago, I tried to articulate the relationship between cooking and gardening, and this is what I came up with: Gardening is a lot like cooking ~ select good local ingredients and respect the basic rules of composition to insure the best possible results. A beautifully prepared meal lingers in the mind long after the cook has cleared the table, and a well planned landscape blossoms over time, long after the designer has moved on.

You’re an active social media user, on various platforms. Why?
Since I am now a “sole proprietor” I rely on social media to connect with the outside garden world. I only became a part of that world when I re-started my business (2009), so I consider myself a newbie. However, there’s nothing like a Global Economic Meltdown to focus the mind on the new-new things: I have never been afraid to get my hands dirty and “get into it” up to my elbows. I learned how to build a website by taking classes at the Apple store, and I have slowly added to my social media platform. I am inspired by the ideas, creative juices, and willingness of others to share garden adventures and information, so it is very easy for me to remain engaged on lots of different levels. Because I am literally “out in the field” during the week, I don’t have much time to write (I used to write a monthly newsletter when I owned a shop), so social media is almost a “retreat” for me, and I find it relaxing whenever I get a chance to dip into the various platforms I play on.

As we look to autumn and winter holidays, what plants and blooms are you most excited about working with again?

In late September, my Yard Army removes summer’s fallen blooms from the flower beds, empties the containers, and replenishes them with fresh soil in preparation for fall and winter installations. Each season I custom design about 150 containers for my clients, and almost every one includes a selection of tulips, hyacinths, muscari, and daffodils. Custom flower beds contain a similar assortment of treasures. I’ll be putting up a few “Pumpkins-on-Porches” displays at some clients’ homes for fall, which will last through Thanksgiving and will include pumpkins, gourds, Chrysanthemums, Asters, Boxwood, Ornamental Peppers, and anything else that strikes my fancy. I love using fresh evergreen boughs to enhance container gardens and window boxes for the holidays. When fresh evergreens and berry boughs are tucked into containers, they stay fresh for weeks with ordinary watering. My favorites: Cryptomeria, Magnolia, Nandina, Cypress, and Spruce, to name a few.

For winter flower color I prefer using Violas over Pansies because they don’t get leggy and rarely require dead-heading, although I do use some Pansies because their colors are too intoxicating to resist. To supplement the flowers, I’ll use perennials like Heuchera, Acorus, and Ferns. I’ve learned over the years that nothing is constant, and I must always come up with fresh ideas for every season so my clients don’t get bored, and I don’t become too dependent upon “the same old, same old.”

Lastly, my winter passion: the Amaryllis. I can hardly wait for the box of Amaryllis bulbs to arrive. I hover over them after they’ve been potted, waiting for an eruption of blossoms to appear on every stem. I am never disappointed. I also force Paperwhites and Hyacinths, depending on how much time I have and how many left overs there are after planting season. I’ve ordered extras this year, for this very purpose, as I have a collection of Hyacinth vases that must be put to work!

Explore More:

• Remember the vegetable garden Pinterest board that a bunch of us launched? Well, it got a shout out recently on the Pinterest blog in a story about Theresa Loe. (Thanks, TLoe, for so graciously sharing the story!)

• Because of my schedule I don’t get to participate in #gardenchat as much as I’d like, but I hope that all of my garden friends know about it. Details are here.


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  1. I have worked with Nancy on many many projects… including several in my own garden. Tons of creative juice flowing all around – as well as a joy to have as a good friend. Kudos to you Nancy!!!

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