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From the Journal: A Tour of Joanna’s Spring Garden

by Joanna Gaines
Published on March 22, 2024

A green graphic has cream text that reads "Magnolia Journal | A Tour of Joanna's Spring Garden."

STORY BY JOANNA GAINES

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RUTHIE MARTIN

ILLUSTRATIONS BY ANDRE JUNGET

This story has been adapted from the spring 2024 issue of Magnolia Journal.

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It’s not like me to invest in transitory things. I tend to put my trust in what’s lasting, and I thrive on consistency, on certainty. And yet, we have a garden on our farm. A plot of unpredictability. Where what’s wild and perfect can also be fleeting, and every season’s harvest looks different. Some plants barely sprout while others thrive. Some flowers bloom while others die. Where all the planning in the world doesn’t stand a chance against what Mother Nature has in store. It’s been 15 years since I roughed out my first plot of dirt with tape and rope and asked Chip to build me my first garden bed. Something small. Something simple. Over time our garden has grown, changed size and shape, its purpose evolving with it. What began as a shy interest in growing some vegetables for dinner has turned into a love of place.

White Finch orlaya flowers in Joanna Gaines' spring garden.

White Finch orlaya

“...WHEN I THINK OF THE GARDEN, I THINK OF THE LIGHT. THE WAY IT KISSES THE PETALS GOOD MORNING AND GOOD NIGHT.”

I’ll always delight in the season’s harvest and its blooms, but when I think of the garden, I think of the light. The way it kisses the petals good morning and good night. I think of the lessons I’ve sown and, even more so, the lessons I’ve reaped throughout every season of planting and pruning, growth and death. How I’ve learned to live outside of the garden from the moments I’ve spent in it. Today, the garden’s presence alone means more to me than anything it produces, for it’s equal parts counsel and comfort, teacher and learner. It’s where our family goes for difficult conversations. Where I’ll make a call that’s got my stomach in knots. Here is where I journal, pray, draw. It’s where you’ll find Crew at first light nearly every day.

Peaches and Cream and Labyrinth dahlias in Joanna Gaines' spring garden.

Peaches and Cream and Labyrinth dahlias

The garden has gifted our family a point of connection, a place to look for growth and reprieve, to find ourselves with still so much to learn. And when a place gives you something more valuable than you asked for, you learn to trust it. So while I spent years planting only what I knew would survive, what wouldn’t leave me disappointed, last fall we planned for a spring harvest that would be ripe with surprise. I wanted to leave a little room for the unexpected, to give the garden a chance to grow something I’ve never had the guts to ask for.

Tahoma Early Dawn dahlias in Joanna Gaines' spring garden.

Tahoma Early Dawn dahlias

“TODAY, THE GARDEN’S PRESENCE ALONE MEANS MORE TO ME THAN ANYTHING IT PRODUCES, FOR IT’S EQUAL PARTS COUNSEL AND COMFORT, TEACHER AND LEARNER.”

Joanna Gaines and her children in their spring garden.

From left to right: Crew with dara and Emmie with snapdragons, Jo with a Café Au Lait dahlia, Crew with beds and a basket of zinnias.

Not all that we risked came to fruition, but what grew stunned me. Beside the go-to blooms, like my zinnias and dara, were rows of orlaya, strawflowers, and dahlias—so many dahlias. It was another lesson the garden had in store for me: It is experiment that leads to discovery, to the place where possibility dwells. Without either, we’d never find new loves, new tried-and-trues. I know that still, and soon, the world will move on. Spring will turn to summer, and the new blooms I’ve loved most will turn with it. But beneath the soil, more is on the way, and again the garden will offer itself to my imagination. I can choose to think about what I’ve lost, or I can wonder what we could watch burst through the soil next.

White Finch orlaya and zinnias in Joanna Gaines' spring garden.

White Finch orlaya and zinnias

I guess you could say the garden has turned me into someone who does invest in fleeting things. But again, the light, the lessons—though the changing of seasons will take both with it—the moments of connection they produced I get to keep with me long after the plot shifts and the dirt is turned.

SYMMETRY IN SIGHT

One of the ways the garden grounds me is with its sense of order. Especially when life feels a little off-kilter or unexpected, it’s so comforting to walk into this visually balanced space. It steadies me. I tend to keep my favorites—what I’m comfortable and familiar with—in the main beds, and I take risks and experiment with new varieties in the outer beds. Before planting, I like to print photos of all the flowers in full scale to see how the textures and dimensions will play together, and I’ll go off a set color palette to keep everything cohesive.

Six photos of flowers in Joanna Gaines' spring garden.

From top left to right: Peaches and Cream dahlia, sweet pea, strawflowers, Afternoon White cosmos, Scoop scabiosa, Dawn Creek zinnias.

Dawn Creek zinnias and strawflowers in Joanna Gaines' spring garden.

Dawn Creek zinnias and strawflowers


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