What if a garden book acted like an interior design guide? That question was the spark for former Minnesotan Jennifer Blaise Kramer to team up with landscape designer Isa Hendry Eaton to write “Small Garden Style” (Ten Speed Press, $22). They approach gardens like indoor spaces, but located outside.
The book kicks off with quizzes to help readers codify their taste — eight style choices include Global Boho and Bold Eclectic. The authors then explain design principles to transform outdoor space, whether that’s a compact downtown balcony or a sprawling suburban lawn. Along the way, they offer chapters on plant selection and information on choosing dirt and mulch.
“Gardening is healing,” says Blaise Kramer, a former editor for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. “People are looking for ways to feather their nests and pay attention to what’s growing, and what can be grown. Our ‘Little House on the Prairie’ days are back in that we’re really connected to the earth right now.”
A Bay Area native who earned a master’s in journalism from Boston College, Blaise Kramer, 41, has lived in Minneapolis twice, once downtown and once near the lakes. And she’s always had a garden, including veggie boxes, but until this book, was an enthusiastic novice.
“I was that classic garden shopper in Linden Hills who would go to Sunnyside Gardens and fill up my cart with all this color,” she says. “I didn’t have a plan. I just loved to plant and to shop for plants.”
But now she’s applied the principles in her book, including taking the test to figure out her gardening style (Old World). “I have always loved French and Italian things and have always been drawn to materials like marble, wood, zinc and patinaed mirror. I’ve got fabrics inside from linen to Raoul and sun-drenched pattern, but outside, no one would have any clue I liked all of that.”
Her garden style extends and complements the architecture of the stucco home she shares in Santa Barbara, Calif., with her husband, Zack, three kids, a dog, a rabbit and baby chicks. She noted that by honing in on the architecture of your home, you get a base and clarity, and an opportunity to build something aspirational or dreamy. For Blaise Kramer, that means constructing a garden that evokes the feel of nearby Napa or the south of France.
But the book, like gardening, shouldn’t be a chore. “I learned a lot in this process — from design theory to how to clean succulents with tweezers,” she says. “I also let go of perfection, which is what we want people to do — just have fun with it.”