In the autumn of 2012, I was asked to read, review and provide a ‘blurb’ for Amanda Thomsen’s upcoming book, Kiss My Aster. Here is what I wrote:
Amanda Thomsen is a quirky, badass landscape genius! This is the first time I’ve read a garden book (or heck, any book for that matter!) that required me to use ‘jazz hands.’ And I liked it. Kiss My Aster is cavity-inducing eye-candy, but it’s also packed with solid information that covers all aspects of crafting a stylish, yet sustainable landscape. The choose-your-own-adventure form is easy to follow and allows the would-be gardener to change direction when new inspiration strikes or a project seem overwhelming (“call a guy!”). Thanks to Amanda, I’m no longer ashamed of my love for garden gnomes and my new landscape goals include sculpting a life-sized topiary of Mr. T from boxwood. If I plant it near the veggie garden, will it keep the deer away? (“I pity the deer that tries to eat my pole beans!”) Kiss My Aster is THE new bible for anyone who wants to learn, laugh and landscape.
I think that sizes up the glittery garden badass that is Amanda Thomsen. Obviously, I’ve been a huge fan for years, so when I started to write Groundbreaking Food Gardens, I immediately approached Amanda to provide a plan and share some of her innovative ideas. The result? A Chicago Hot Dog Garden that is as quirky, tasty and unique as Amanda. (Warning – Do NOT even think about adding ketchup to a Chicago style hot dog or she will take you DOWN!)
Since we’re now at the starting line of the 2014 planting season, I thought it would be fun to check in with Amanda and get her thoughts on what’s hot, what’s not and perhaps bug her for a few kick-ass landscaping tips.
Q1: You are a professional landscaper, blogger, magazine columnist and author. So I have to ask – Why are we all so afraid of landscaping?
A: Is it possible that gardening has had 100 years of bad PR? I dunno! It seems like people who love to garden are enthusiastic and willing to share and others are just “No way, I can’t do that!” It’s interesting in that a person can have a tiny sample of gardening failure and be put off for life. I always say that it’s as if you broke a glass unloading the dishwasher ONE TIME and you were all, “THAT’S IT! I’m NEVER drinking ANYTHING again!” I have a hard time keeping a leash on my creativity and need to make my home a shrine to me! And yet, so many just can’t see it.
Q2: What are your biggest landscaping peeves?
A: My big thing is to not chomp down on anybody’s taste, if it’s who you are, it’s WONDERFUL. But hot damn, red mulch freaks me out. And mulch volcanos. And pruning things into meatballs. Stop me, I’m sounding judgy.
A: This year, I’m about finding mismatched lids for things and then shoving them in the ground vertically behind a plant I want to show off, old tin lids, cake covers, whatever costs less than $3. I’m thinking of hanging punch cups from the trees this year too. My favorite thing is my line-up of old percolators with annuals in them. It tickles me pink and irritates the neighbors. And, oh, I’m using bowling balls as mulch as much as possible.
Q4: Do you grow any edibles? And if so, what are your must-have’s?
A: I grow TONS of edibles, but I don’t really talk or blog about it because there are people who do it better. I’m okay with the kitsch being my thing! I’m obsessed with all greens, but I like them in reds and purples. Love my ‘Freckles’ and ‘Red Deer Tongue’ lettuce, ‘Bulls Blood’ beets and red Swiss chard. I also go dark with my tomatoes, I did ‘Indigo Rose’ and ‘Black Krim’ last year and that was a great combo. I have every herb, with a BIG love for bronze fennel and lovage. Every berry I can think of, a front yard rhubarb patch and yard long beans growing up into the trees.
I was really stoked about ‘Indigo Rose’ tomato last year. I read reviews saying it was terrible, but I loved the black glitter colour and the taste was, well- it was 600,000x better than anything from a grocery store so I’m doing them again this year!
Q5: Can you give us three Kiss My Aster-style landscaping tips?
1. Who cares what your neighbors think. You don’t own a house, you own a piece of this planet we live on. Make it WORK!
2. Let your freak flag fly!
3. Go to the thrift store with an open mind and find stuff that can go in the garden.
Bonus question – because I had to ask! – What are you obsessed with right NOW?
A: I’m obsessed with rot and decay right now. The Impermanence of all things gardeny! Should it be made to last? Should rust be stopped? Paint be touched up? And goggly eyes, GIANT roses, dahlias for days, wearing white shirts and wiping my hands on them and TONS OF GLITTER!
More on Amanda:
Big, loud and fun, Amanda Thomsen landscapes by day and blogs at night. Her blog, Kiss My Aster has alienated/enraptured dozens for the better part of a decade. In November 2012, Kiss My Aster: A Graphic Guide to Creating a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You hit bookstores and is now empowering a whole new generation of gardeners to take control of their landscapes. Unlike most garden books, Kiss My Aster boasts a choose-your-own-adventure style that makes it as fun to read as actually getting out and working in the garden.
Amanda also blogs for Fine Gardening, Proven Winners and a bunch of other places. There is a Kiss My Aster Facebook page that’s like a party (in your plants). She is the less popular half of the podcasting team, Good Enough Gardening, which makes her feel like the “Roy” of Siegfried and Roy, but without the mauling. She lives in Chicago and does not EVER put ketchup on hot dogs.
Photographs reprinted with permission from Amanda Thomsen, author of Kiss My Aster (Storey Publishing, Nov 2012) © 2014.