The Inner Gardener shares her secrets

This time of year it’s easy to have garden-envy, especially if you’re just starting a landscaping or gardening project of your own.
When you drive around, do you notice the beautiful, well-established gardens hugging other peoples’ homes, bursting with native foliage, well-timed blooms and a mysterious sense of effortlessness? And then look at your shovel, bags of compost, weed-covered lawn and wonder ? egads! How do I begin?
Well, there’s good news. You don’t have to do it alone.
Joan Lynch launched The Inner Garden, Inc. ? a horticultural services company that specializes in sustainable landscapes and the use of tropical plants for green interior plantscapes ? to help those of us (with or without green thumbs) achieve an envy-worthy garden.
“In the 25 years I’ve been doing this, what I’ve learned is to read the customer’s needs and interests,” said Lynch. “People say, ‘oh, I want gardens!’ Then I bring reality in.”
Lynch asks her clients how much work they want to do and what they want from their gardens. To achieve the right balance, she said, it’s about scaling ideas and suggesting plants or designs that will make a dream-garden feasible.
“I like connecting with my customers,” the sun-kissed gardener with scratches and scrapes (from pruning a Spirea) said. “The process of sharing ideas and opening them up to something that perhaps they would never have thought of is the true inspiration behind what I do. The ‘a-ha’ moments are priceless.”
Once the client’s needs are understood, the process starts. Lynch does the initial planning and drawings, then she calls on her team of five horticulturists and earthmovers who help her design, install and maintain gardens throughout the Addison County area.
“I have an amazing staff,” she said. “Everyone is very talented and we work together as a great team.” 
Lynch herself came from Willmington, Del., where she lived and followed in her father’s footsteps as an electronic engineer until she was 34. “I was working on the gas management systems of nuclear class war subs, when I decided it was not feeding my soul,” she said. So she stopped, and transferred to Temple University in Philly, where she earned her degree in Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. “It was the best thing I ever did,” Lynch reflected. “It’s so much more fun to be with the plants!”
Lynch moved to Vermont in 1995 (the week after she graduated) and took a job working in Shrewsberry for an herb farm and then moved to Cornwall and worked with Dwight Dunning ? who’s since retired his Addison County Landscaping business. Next, Lynch took a few seasons to work for a large landscaping company in the Hamptons, where she learned a lot, but realized the Hamptons were not for her.
“There was a disrespect for nature and horticulture there,” she said. “It was upsetting and irritating. We never educated our clients; that’s what drove me out of there… There’s a reason why we all choose to live in Vermont: everyone I’ve interfaced with here has a grand respect for Vermont’s natural beauty and they try to enhance their piece of it.”
In 2004, Lynch launched her own business. Today, she and her team maintain 30 gardens, working hard from mid-April through Thanksgiving. “We all work really hard and then we have winter off,” she said. “What do we do? Ski.” Oh, and design too.
Right now, at the beginning of their season, it’s all about new garden design.
“Everything works on paper,” said Lynch. “But once you put it in dirt, it changes… Change happens all the time and that’s what makes it fun. Gardens evolve when we evolve; the garden is never done.”
Lynch’s projects range from $5,000 to $100,000 depending on the size and scope. Many clients, she said, choose to do their grand garden plan in increments, which helps keep the bills and maintenance manageable.
“To achieve our custom look for each setting, in addition to stone, we use native Northeastern trees, shrubs and perennials from local growers,” Lynch explained. “We also promote biodiversity with ecologically appropriate non-native species mixed in with native plants for additional textures and an inspired new look.”
For those looking to do-it-yourself, Lynch suggests a few simple tips:
–Keep up on the weeds.
–Pay attention to nearby invasive species.
–Think about the big picture. How do you want to spend your summer and what do you want to get from your garden?
–Don’t be afraid to remove plants that don’t thrill you. (Give them to a friend if you feel bad.)
Be careful not to use up all your energy in your outside garden because indoor plants are important too. ?“Indoor gardens help connect inside to outside,” Lynch said. “Interior plants have evolved from simple green decoration to an element that is conductive to creativity, calm, health and productivity in the home or office… For example, did you know that a 6-inch potted plant (like a spider plant or a peace lily) can purify the air in a 100-square-foot area?”
Lynch and her team assess the light levels, humidity and environment and select plants (typically from South America and Florida) that “resonate with the spirit of the space.”
“Indoor (and outdoor) plants can sometimes get pests,” warns Lynch. “Wash off insects with soapy water; if you’re going to use a chemical indoors use the soil-drench kind or a baking soda spray.” But in the end, Lynch said, “we have to be able to accept some insects and damage in the garden, it’s part of the natural world.”

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