Homegrown Inspiration

by Charlotte Bennardo

I'm not an expert gardener. But, I do have a meditation garden which changes every year, mostly because something was an annual and I don't remember which plant it was, or I planted something that decided it wanted to be the only flower in the garden and therefore spent all winter procreating. I usually meditate on two things when I weed and wander and work in there; why I'm mad at someone in my family, or how to work out a problem in my novel.

Whether it's how to cut out a character, or how to get from one scene to another, I contemplate various scenarios as I kill dandelions and poison ivy or some other nuisance. There is no sense of time when I'm in the garden, no reason to rush. In fact, wandering along the narrow path which winds around beautiful blooms and little statues which represent important things, like the rock that says 'Imagine' I sometimes find myself coming out several hours later. The beauty in there quiets me and encourages me to take my time, which is generally what a writer needs when faced with a plot/character/pacing/etc. writing problem. Solutions can't be rushed. Here's what I see:

In this picture, I see different flowers peacefully co-existing... So maybe characters of different ethnicities, or even species, are friends when the world expects them not to be...

In this view, all the flowers are identical color because they are all the same genus/species. But... suppose one of them wants to be a rebel; wants to move away from the group, be somehow different to stand out from the crowd...

This flower is in a pot, hanging above the rest. It had companion blooms, but they had their season and died... What if a character was suddenly all alone, facing life solo? Would they shine to their best, or soon fade away like the others....

If you look at the top left corner, you can see part of the path that wanders through my garden. It has twists and an abrupt stop, and part is obscured where the flowers overtook the path. Maybe a character needs to find a surprise stop on their path, a dead end they didn't expect? How would that affect their story?

These daisies are my middle son's favorite. He asked me to plant them when he was a little boy, and they have returned year after year. Such happy flowers! We each have something that brings us joy just looking at it, like I do with these flowers. They evoke happy memories of working in the garden with my little boy. In tough times, it's a little pick me up, so give your character a bit of joy to hang onto when they are in dark times.

This is a bee house. Because bees are endangered, I put this house in to welcome them into my garden, which is a safe space. I don't use chemicals, there is shade (and with all the rain, water), and the pollen and nectar from all the blooms available. (There are more varieties of flowers, but you get the picture). Either the main character or a secondary character could be in need of sanctuary, and finds it in the least likely place- a former or perceived enemy, someone they never knew, or even in a totally different world extends a helping hand. 

What I don't picture (and maybe I should have) are the invasive weeds. They are the enemy because they take precious soil space from the flowers and choke them with long roots and reaching branches. Your character will meet enemies. Some who are obvious, some who hide among the flowers, even blooming with same color or similar flowers of their own. A few are beneficial to the bees, like dandelions (first food for bees in spring), so enemies can bring a benefit to your character, or at least your story adding intrigue and conflict. 

With all these 'prods', my garden practically grows inspiration for me, allowing me to pick and choose solutions as easily as flowers.


  1. I love how your gardens have all been part of your author journey. They are beautiful, BTW.

  2. Thanks Darlene! Looking forward to seeing you at Collingswood!


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