Gardening is reminder of ‘magic in the universe’ for Dayton woman

‘It is truly beautiful to watch the garden evolve,’ she says.

For Kathleen Tandy, an eclectic approach to gardening lends practical — and charming — magic throughout her yard.

“The garden can look a bit wild and unkempt but, to me, that is one of its most loveable features,” she said as she strolled outside the Dayton home she shares with her husband.

The .25-acre lot features raised beds, enchanting succulent gardens, a pear tree, irises, roses, a strawberry patch, a composting station and much more.

“The garden is a place where much of my nurturing impulse is expressed; and it is truly beautiful to watch the garden evolve and feed all the pollinators and provide beauty for myself, my friends and my neighborhood,” Tandy said.

“I am always experimenting with a few challenges — like growing figs for instance,” she added. “I like to let things that I know will self sow go to seed. I have pretty good success with breadseed poppies, shiso mint, borage, foxgloves, allysum and cilantro.”

The couple have also started construction on a greenhouse made from old windows. “We are a bit slow, so this is like a five- to six-year project, but it is turning out splendidly.”

This year, “I am growing all flowers for dyeing fabric,” she said. Tandy owns Pink Moon Goods in Dayton’s historic Huffman District. The retail shop features sustainable, ethical and unique home goods and more. She plans to dye fabric to use for cloth napkins and reusable paper towels, which she will sell in her store.

And that is a natural fit as she has a master of fine arts degree in Costume Design and Technology. “I worked for about 20 years as a costumer, costume designer and instructor of Theatre Costuming. I have worked in TV, film, theater and various other sorts of entertainment,” Tandy added. “I worked at Sinclair in the Theatre Department for about 15 years before starting my own business.”

What’s your favorite thing about the garden? That it is eclectic. I grow cut flowers, native plants, food, fruit, shade plants, full sun plants, trees. Being from California, I am constantly trying to find plants that I became familiar with during those college days and incorporating them into my garden here.

When were you first inspired to garden? I started gardening when I was in college to support myself; and it was then that I fell in love with the experience of being outdoors in the garden and spending time with plants. Many years later, when I had my first home with a yard, I found it to be a way to connect with my grandpa who was an avid gardener. Being outside in the garden became my favorite pastime during this period — and has remained so to this day.

Why do you love your garden? Being around plants and watching them grow reminds me of the magic in the universe. Watching a seed become a plant that produces tons of flowers or food feels like a miracle. I love to sit in our patio area and look out at the garden to see the miracle unfolding. There is nothing more satisfying. ... After a good day’s work, the garden is restored and looking good. Guests seem to really appreciate being in the garden as well, so it always makes for a fun time.

What you have built for your outdoor spaces? When we moved into our home in 2014, there was just grass. The entire backyard was grass; and my neighbor told me that she had never seen a single flower bloom in the yard. That first year we tilled the soil and started mapping out the beds and pathways. It has changed a little over the years but, in general, we basically blew up the entire yard into a garden with raised beds and pathways throughout. We live on a corner, so the entire garden is exposed. We decided early on to create some amount of privacy while also keeping a somewhat open feel. We have a partial fence that we built that, over time, has been joined by plants to create a more natural fence. We built all of the bed frames out of repurposed wood. We have built a few cages to grow things in that are attacked by squirrels and birds. We have a very large tomato cage and a shorter long cage that covers our strawberry patch.

What’s new this year for your outdoor spaces? We are going to add the roof onto the greenhouse and maybe even get a door on. Growing plants for dyeing fabric is the biggest new undertaking for this year. I am excited to see how that transforms the overall look of the garden.

Who or what has influenced you the most when it comes to gardening? This has really changed for me over the years. My first garden was more about growing food. But the year before I got married, I did a trial to grow cut flowers for our wedding; and I became hooked on growing cut flowers. There is something so decadent about having flowers in my home throughout the season. Being able to walk outside and pick a bouquet for a friend or a neighbor feels really empowering.

How do you entertain in your backyard? In the summer, we grill out a lot and have fires a lot. The thing that really makes it magical is the garden. We don’t have great lighting and our patio is just grass. But the garden is so spectacular — especially by midsummer — that it is easy to overlook all of that other stuff. So many evenings in the summer, you will find us outdoors with friends relaxing. It doesn’t get better than that. This year, we have a new grill to try out ... so we are looking forward to more group-type meals.

Where do you go for garden and/or patio materials? I support local businesses as much as possible: Gardening Haven, Knollwood Garden Center, Meadow View Growers and Tom’s Mulch and Landscaping.

What advice would you give to novice gardeners? The best advice that I ever got and I love to pass on to others is: If it doesn’t grow or something eats it or it gets diseased or anything goes wrong, just take it out and put something else there! Gardening is suppose to be stress-relieving not stress-inducing. The season is long, and you can start lots of different things at almost anytime.

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