By Peg Carmack Short - Produced by Jill Leslie Haack - Photography by Dick Kaplin
Did you ever buy a great pair of shoes that you found on sale, only to get home and decide you didn't have a thing to wear with them? So, you bought a new dress to go with the shoes, and then you had to have a purse to match both. Before long, your bargain shoes led to a surprisingly stunning new outfit.

For town home owner, Kim Kilpatrick, her "new pair of shoes" was actually a $20 Adirondack bench that she found at a discount store. But once purchased, she didn't have a place to put it. Too big for her deck, she decided to take out a section of her lawn and build a path on which to place her bench. Then, she created a garden to surround it. Voilá! A new phase for her small backyard garden was begun.

While most gardens as stunning as Kim's begin with a well-conceived plan, Kim finds part of her delight in being spontaneous. "It's a creative outlet for me," she says. "It's like art."

And like a painter starting a fresh canvas, she prefers to lavish her garden in a variety of colors and patterns, doing whatever pleases her. "It's all in the eye of the beholder," Kim says, explaining her fearless approach to gardening. "If you like pink with red, it's your choice. You can always try something else next time."

Since most of Kim's flowers are annuals, like her favorite red geraniums and white bacopa, she sees this approach as very low risk. "I love annuals because they provide color, color, color," she says. "And, they are not as invasive as perennials, which is important when you have a small space for gardening."

Preferring a serendipitous approach to gardening, Kim plants annuals to allow room for experimentation. She buys new plants and places them in different locations each year. Not limiting herself to certain colors or types of plants, Kim often chooses whatever is the best buy or newest plant for the season. "When the creeping petunias came out, I bought some in purple and pink," she says. The red geraniums, placed in pots that anchor the corners of her deck still, however, remain a mainstay in Kim's garden.

This willingness to adapt and change her garden, reflects Kim's thinking of it as a "transitional" garden. Though this term is typically defined as various perennials blooming throughout the garden season alongside newly-imported annuals, Kim uses the term to indicate a sensible approach for creating a garden for a homeowner who is likely to be moving on. "I see myself as a short-term resident," she says, "and I didn't want to make a large investment in a permanent infrastructures."

Consequently, Kim's garden has been planned with an eye toward change. "Everything in the garden can be easily expanded, altered, or moved with me to my next home." Her ability to create a "movable" garden extends beyond her choice of annuals instead of perennials. Bargain basement trellises, found at a winter clearance sale, were cleverly used to create an inexpensive fence for her backyard. Salvaged bits of a picket fence form a charming surround for plain, white planters. And an old gate creates an interesting backdrop in the garden, while at the same time, hiding her air conditioner, which might otherwise be an eyesore. Other portables include the many containers she places in and around the garden.

Admittedly addicted to flowers and gardening, Kim also confesses to being a "knickknack sort of person." Much of the charm of her garden is derived from the variety and clever uses of her finds, like the pathway she created using heart-shaped stepping stones, which she purchased from a garage sale. "I did it [the path] all by myself. It seemed to take forever, but it was an act of love."

A weekend gardener, Kim loves spending all day planting the many flats she purchases at the start of each season. Starting with a few plants, her garden now encompasses her tiny backyard. Besides her own joy in tending the garden, Kim recently got an extra bonus when a neighbor left a note saying, "You have the cutest house in the neighborhood." Not a bad compliment for a small, but splashy garden!

Articles included here are copyrighted by Peg Carmack Short and may not be copied in full or part without written permission of the author.

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