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Meet Sue Goetz and her Landscape Designs (2023 Annual Meeting Speaker)

Meet Sue Goetz. In this profile, Sue shares excellent advice and tells us a little about where she gets her inspiration. Check it out below!

What type of garden do you have?

I call it my eclectic muse- an experimental ground for what works in design that I do for others and what inspires me! I ripped out my front lawn to plant a perennial community after visiting the High Line in New York, the Lurie Garden in Chicago, and the works of Piet Ouldolf. This part of my garden has taught me a lot about designing naturalistic meadows for clients. Other parts of my garden are a series of raised veggie beds next to a greenhouse filled with my scented geranium collection (Pelargonium). Plus, I use herbs in landscape design, like Mediterranean plants used in different ways, like lavender, rosemary, and sage, as hedges or highlights in pottery.

What would you tell a beginner gardener?

Be patient, be tolerant, be respectful, be forgiving!

Be Patient with plants as they grow and fill in, and give time to your learning curve of how to garden with nature and not against it.

Be tolerant of imperfect lawns, a few weeds, nibbled-on plants, and plants allowed to grow wild (not pruned within an inch of life and limb).

Respect what nature is doing as a companion to your work: pollinator habitats, healthy soils, and water quality.

Be Forgiving. It’s okay to make mistakes. We all do! Forgive yourself for putting a plant in the wrong place or forgetting to water something. Look at it as your next adventure in fixing or getting a new plant in its place.

What would you tell your younger gardening self?

All the above! Oh, and what a fabulous adventure this would be as it became my career.

A future gardening trend?

BIODIVERSITY is a word you should know and understand how it can define how we plant and garden! Biodiversity focuses on variety in planting and care of the ecosystem created. Biodiverse gardens have different species of plants and seasonal offerings to support numerous forms of life in t

he garden. This trend is looking at existing gardens to add plants or habitats or designing new landscapes from a  holistic perspective- how one element affects another and creates the whole landscape. An aspect of biodiversity in gardening is the hot trend of pollinator gardens, which are one way of adding diversity in plantings to support insects.

Most inspirational book/garden/ or designer?

I have a garden library of over 800 books, and when I want to be inspired by design, I go to one of the titles written by John Brookes.

What would your dream garden weekend in the PNW look like?

Visiting gardens and hearing the gardener’s story of what inspired them to plan, grow, and create it.

A plant that you did not expect to be able to grow but that did well in your garden?

I found a tiny 1-gallon Cape Restio (Rhodocoma capensis)  on clearance  (at a shall be unnamed big box home improvement store)  and grabbed it- feeling like I had won the lottery. I planted it next to the warm stucco walls of my house, hoping it would be protected enough. It looks fantastic and dramatic, growing to a height- touching the gutters along the roofline of my home. It has survived buried under a foot of snow with all the stems lying on the ground and a 14-degree winter freeze.

My first gardening memory?

My grandparent’s garden on the coast of Oregon (Coos Bay) was filled with all kinds of fruit and veggies. One day, I watched my grandpa pick romaine lettuce leaves from the garden, shake off the dirt, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and start eating them. It was my first introduction to snacking straight from the garden- which I still do- eating tomatoes, peas, and green beans right off the vines is one of my favorite things to do?

Advice for gardeners as they start to grapple with a changing climate?

Climate change is an extensive discussion that draws on many polarizing conversations. Come to terms with the fact that you are not in control of the weather, but you can still make a difference. Be adaptable to what the climate is doing. Be a keen observer of weather patterns and changing environments (write temperatures and weather events like heavy rains or drought on a calendar to help understand what happened in a past season that might be affecting the garden now). Be ready and willing to adjust your garden based on what you see- for example, changing plant choices to conserve water, using alternative mulching and soil amending techniques, and removing unhealthy practices that affect the environment, such as peat use or chemical spraying. Become aware of heat units –and the connection of hotter summers in urban spaces. Minimal use of trees and plants while adding more rocks, hardscape, or artificial turf will affect how much heat stays in an area. Interesting studies and data show sites with little to no trees or gardens and how much higher temperatures are in those spaces. Planting trees and diverse “green” landscapes can make a difference. Learn and understand sustainable practices that can continue to support the longevity of your garden while supporting nature. Gardening, teaching, and sharing information will make an impact.

Why are public gardens important?

Because they open and invite interaction and inclusion to more people than just avid gardeners. It gives people a space and place to experience a garden when they may not have that opportunity at home. Public gardens are also great learning and inspirational experiences. I believe public gardens also help with land preservation to keep an awareness of green space and its impact on those around it.

Three pieces of advice for someone thinking about a career in horticulture?

Go work in a Nursery. If you get stuck watering plants all day in the summer heat, you will learn a lot about plants! Get knowledgeable about all aspects– from soil to plants.

Join plant communities and organizations like HPSO. Follow horticulturists on social media and stay on the pulse of what is happening in the garden world. Move outside your scope of what you want to do and become well-rounded. It is amazing to be connected with plants and people who grow them, no matter what aspect of horticulture you go into.

Go work in as many places connected to horticulture as you can. For example, as a garden designer, it is not just about drawing pretty plans- I have worked in the construction side of landscaping, nurseries, and plant purchasing. It helps to understand the process of getting designs to reality. I say I can draw gardens on paper all day, but drawings are nothing but a pretty picture unless it has logic and a true look at the environment it is being designed for and the ability to bring it to life.

Sue Goetz, CPH, ecoPRO, is an award-winning garden designer, writer, and speaker. 
Through her business, she works with clients to personalize outdoor spaces-from garden coaching to complete landscape design. Her garden design work has earned gold medals at the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival and specialty awards, including the Sunset magazine, the Fine Gardening magazine, and The American Horticultural Society Awards.
 Writing and speaking are other ways Sue shares her love for the garden by offering seminars and hands-on workshops. A published author, Sue shares her passion for herb gardens with her books The Complete Container Herb Gardening, A Taste for Herbs, and The Herb-Lover’s Spa Book.


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