The Simple Life
Michele Meier Vosberg
The Potting Shed
I am the very proud owner of a brand new potting shed. This is not a regular shed, one of those barn shaped metal monstrosities that you see in suburban backyards. Those are quite serviceable, if not imaginative. This is a real honest to goodness potting shed. My husband scoffs at the difference. It’s true, both types of shed hold the lawnmower, the wheelbarrow and garden tools. A potting shed is significantly different, as any true gardener understands; a potting shed has soul. A potting shed moves beyond the realm of serviceable and into the realm of possibility.
What makes a potting shed? In its simplest definition, it is a place to plan, prepare and store garden materials. A potting shed holds the stuff of gardeners: terracotta planters, trowels, bags of potting soil and peat moss. If you are lucky, your potting shed has a potting bench, or at least a place to plant seedlings and set down hand tools. Unlike a regular garden shed, a potting shed is furnished. There are hooks for hanging a hat or jacket. There is a place to sit, for real gardeners are likely to spend time thinking and planning and dreaming about their gardens. A regular shed is likely to be tucked away in an inconspicuous spot, a potting shed becomes an element of the garden, fitting into the garden design rather than being placed adjacent to it.
The best part of my potting shed was in the planning of it. I spent many cold winter days in front of the fire reading garden books and magazines. I tore out pictures of sheds that I admired. Some were whimsical, some were rustic, some were cobbled together out of all sorts of weathered materials. But I noticed that my favored potting sheds had common elements. They were wood or stone, never metal; natural materials seem best when it comes to a potting shed. They were workable spaces, places that were well used, not show rooms. Each of the sheds had personality, hints of the owner’s style and interests. One held an aviary of handmade birdhouses. Several had trellises attached to the walls. All were deliberately landscaped with perennials and flowerpots brimming with plants.
I dreamed of my potting shed. It would be made of wood, with a shingled roof and windows. Big window boxes would hold trailing ivy and colorful petunias. It would have bits of gingerbread trim, painted an unlikely, fanciful color. My house is not suited to gingerbread trim, but if I can’t have Queen Anne lace on my house, I can have it on my potting shed. A potting shed is a place for expressing personality and individuality. I chose my paint colors, a creamy vanilla for the walls, a sage green for the trim and a terracotta pink for the gingerbread. My potting shed would hold my garden supplies, and maybe a bit more. My potting shed would hold little pieces of my personality.
I bought brackets for shelves, knowing that a person who loves both books and gardens can never have too many shelves. I collected quotes about gardening and wrote them on the inside walls of my potting shed. In my basement I found an old library table, purchased at an auction long ago, but in need of refinishing. It was never the right size or shape for a spot in my house, and I never got around to refinishing it. Still, I loved the lines of the table, and I loved the idea that it was once a table in a library, in my eyes an esteemed piece of furniture. I moved it in and made it serviceable once again as my brand new “potting bench.” At an Amish auction I bought a bench and a wooden trellis and painted them to match the trim. A climbing “New Dawn” rose in a lovely pink and a couple of plants split from the overgrown ones in the rest of my yard completed the look.
It was the potting shed of my dreams. I moved my garden things in, clearing space in the garage for my car. I lovingly filled shelves with pots gathered from all over the house and stacks of garden books. I filled a little terracotta planter with pens and set it next to my garden journal and a stack of notepads. I filled a metal tub with soil. I am ready for business; in my garden shed I can do all of my favorite things. I can plant things, putter around with my plants, flip through garden magazines or if I am so inspired, write. I can sit on my bench and read a book, enjoying the scent of roses. I can work hard, a gardener’s work is never done, or if I feel like it, I can do nothing.
In the end, I have discovered the real difference between a potting shed and an ordinary garden shed. Any old shed can hold the lawnmower, but it takes a potting shed to hold dreams.