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Backyard Paradise: Tips From A Seasoned Gardener
gardening heels
Shown are a few of Linda Medeiros’ garden creations. Among the creative containers are some high heeled shoes, kids’ shoes, and boots, overflowing with succulents. Photo Contributed

It’s 9 a.m. on a warm summer’s morning in an area just west of Oakdale. Enter into a regular-looking suburban home, follow through to outside, and find a backyard paradise.

“It’s a lot of trial and error,” Linda Medeiros, gardener by hobby and antique dealer by trade, shared.

To dispel any initial thought, Medeiros may have a few tomatoes growing, but she largely specializes in more decorative and unique plants to create a sort of jungle in her backyard. Her husband, who prefers a clean and simple look, has the lawn meticulously trimmed, while her garden grows over in its designated space to frame the yard.

Because of this battle between overgrown wilderness and cleanly cut lawn, Medeiros has to get creative with plant placement. So, she suggests using various types of pots so plants can be moved around a lot easier.

“And I just use things. These are bed frames as an entrance to the garden – just things I find,” she explained.

As an antique dealer, with spaces all across town in Boutiques at Tiffany’s, At the Corner, and others, Medeiros has cultivated a keen eye that has a vision for repurposing.

Her plants are settled in a variety of reused containers, like chicken feeders, buckets, mini watering cans, seashells, and even pairs of high heels.

 “People really need to think differently about the containers,” she urged. “Even your grandfather’s shoe that meant a lot to you …” – she suggested popping a plant right in and watching it grow.

Medeiros offered encouragement, noting that starting a garden doesn’t need a lot of time, money, or space. Even a hanging plant in an apartment is a great start, she said.

“I just wish everybody would try it,” she expressed. “I hear people say ‘Oh, I have a brown thumb’ and they don’t. The basic thing is water and placement. If you see it’s not working somewhere, that’s the good thing about containers, you can move them.”

She recognized the challenge that can come with gardening. Whether it be bugs or infected plants, she said that she usually just cleans them with some soap and water. She also explained that you can usually tell when something is in the wrong place: “They scorch or turn black or yellow. Normally I have something green I put over top of them for shade.”

Something that may surprise newer gardeners is that succulents shouldn’t be treated like cactuses; in fact, in too much sun, their leaves can burn. Medeiros suggested that they only need three hours of sun in the morning and by afternoon should be shaded.

As for starting a garden, “you don’t have to have a lot of money ... you can propagate succulents. Just pop a leaf off and stick ‘em in the soil.”

Medeiros noted that she usually has a whole basket of propagated succulents at her plant sales. Alongside these, she’s also planning on having spider plants, terrariums, and plenty of plants that are easy for people to start their own gardens with.

While anyone can start a garden with just a small space, Medeiros has been making the most of what she has between her patio, green room, and the edges of her yard. Her home is full of verdant vignettes that she posts on Facebook and online gardening groups for people to enjoy and hopefully derive some inspiration.

For gardeners at any stage, she added that it would be helpful to join an online gardening club: “Everybody gets excited, and you can ask a question and get a thousand answers.”

A trip through Medeiros’ garden is a sensory experience. There are leaves as soft as a lamb’s ear, some that will smell like peanut butter if you rub them between your fingers, and she also grows feverfew which can relieve migraines and aloe vera which can help with sunburns. Most of her garden has been repurposed in some way, whether it’s her neighbor’s pomegranate tree overgrown to give shade to Medeiros’ plants, second hand containers, yard sale finds as decoration, or even using one of her trees as support for more hanging plants, she makes sure to waste nothing.

And Medeiros pointed out that whether you have a big yard, plenty of time, and a lot of money to spend, or you have a small apartment without a lot of time or money to spare, plants can work for you, if only you try.

“I’ve had so many people say they’re starting gardens because they’re sheltering at home and they’re getting their kids into it,” she said, pleased with that trend. “Kids love it! They love to touch soil, put them in pots; it’s a family thing. Get the kids out there, let them have their own little section.”

gardening hallway
In the corner of her yard, Linda Medeiros made a little hallway of plants that grow from both sides and overhead. Inside, she has thrifted decorations, hanging plants, and little benches to create a tranquil, jungle-like scene. Photo By Autumn Neal