Kerry Ann Mendez: No Hostage Is She
Kerry Ann Mendez gets things done. As owner of Perennially Yours, she is a garden consultant, author, columnist, speaker, event planner (Great Gardens and Landscaping Symposium) and teacher. She is a woman of practical ideals.
“We get emotionally attached to gardens,” she says. “They’re our children.” But just like children, gardens grow up and Mendez knows practical ways to help gardeners move on.
Kerry’s Garden Checklist:
1. Look at the garden’s location. Ask yourself: ‘Can I enjoy it from inside the house? Or on the way to the house? Can I see it and enjoy it from different vantage points?’
2. Downsize the garden. It may not mean reducing the garden’s size. More often, it means changing plants. Take a good look at the plant material. Switch some plants out and bring in others that take 50% less time and work but still bring beauty. For instance replace burning bush with fothergilla with great red/orange/yellow foliage in fall, fragrant flowers in spring and colorful blue-green foliage in summer and little pruning needed.
“Take a plant that costs less in time and energy, that’s not invasive and has more seasons of interest. Like campanula that needs a lot of pinching and deadheading and replace it with Geranium ‘Roseanne’ that never needs any deadheading, flowers from mid-June to fall, still gets the blue color and three more months of color.”
3. Slash time and energy with native plants. They thrive on less fertilizer, spraying and watering so you spend less money and save time.
4. Select plants with incredible foliage.
5. Use thugs and self-seeders. Plants that spread fast are great to cover spaces and keep weeds down.
6. Use fewer varieties but more of less. “Instead of 25 different plant varieties, go with five. Using more of each takes less time to do maintenance. You use the same motion on a lot of plants.” It is economy of motion. But Mendez cautions to “make sure they have more than one season of interest with either dried seed heads or foliage.” Think about it: if you don’t get continual interest, you’ll have a massive mess.
7. Use cool containers as a focal point. Statues give the eyes a rest from plant material.
The Mendez Method was born when Kerry’s husband broke his neck.
“He retired early and I needed to step out of my business and work full time as director of marketing for a nursery. I needed to go through all these gardens I loved, mentally and physically. How to bring it down to scale to fit my lifestyle? I had to reduce it by 50% and still take joy. It forced me to take a dramatic new look and tighten the screws to an extremely low maintenance garden.”
Maybe you just have other interests or want to spend time with the grandkids. “We need to free ourselves from guilt,” Mendez says. “I was happy with the change in my gardens. I was so pleased. I felt so free. They’re beautiful. I talked myself into it.”
Mendez got into gardening in the early 80s while working as Associate Director of Alumni Relations at Union College in Schenectady, New York. She fell into hard financial times. “One day when I drove past acres of field grown perennials I pulled into the driveway and asked the woman for a Saturday job. She hired me. I worked there Friday and Saturday in the field on my knees dividing perennials.”
The woman talked Kerry into starting her own business. Then in June 2003, after 18 years at Union, she was full time into gardens – teaching, writing, speaking. “I’m always working. I’m so blessed. I sold 8,000-9,000 copies of my first two books. It all started with a woman who took a chance on me.”
But that’s not all. Mendez conceived and produced her first Great Gardens and Landscaping Symposium 11 years ago. “I just felt like I wanted to do an event that brought gardeners from many different areas with incredible speakers who can speak to home gardeners of all different age levels at a great resort and have a good time. It’s a great kick-off to a new gardening season.” Attendance zoomed from 50+ gardeners to 220 now, some from Canada, with an annual 50% return.
In March 2015, her fourth book The Downsized Garden will be out. “It covers exceptional low maintenance plants and design solutions for the ageing and time-pressed gardener. It’s about good plants, good tools and good practices, especially for ageing gardeners.
“Many feel that we’ve gardened ourselves into a corner. I love to garden but it’s holding me hostage. I want to have a garden. So we need to make good assessments, choices and designs.”
More life garden articles
Print this story:
published April 27, 2014