Anne Sheldon's Atlanta garden is a visual symphony: an orchestration of the movements and rhythmic qualities of plants into an arrangement that celebrates her musical and horticultural talent. A cellist who taught music and played professionally for more than 20 years, Sheldon believes that all art forms are interrelated. "Gardening and music are both creative endeavors," she says. "They both require skill and knowledge, and they employ the same elements."
For instance, a piece of music and a garden often flow in similar ways. A song's introduction corresponds to the path leading into a garden. A musical bridge takes a listener to the next section of a piece just as a gate or arbor is the transition between garden spaces. Like a refrain, repetition in the garden unites different elements into a whole, and a melody makes a song memorable just as the style of a garden creates its noteworthiness.
Movement of the Geographical Sort
Twenty-three years ago, when she went looking for a house in Atlanta, Sheldon emphasized that she wanted a home that had good views of the property from all the windows. She found the perfect house with lots of windows, but the landscape was completely barren. The site also had quite a grade change from the front to the back. But full sun bathed the front yard and large oaks shaded the back: the differing light conditions that Sheldon also had on her wish list.
Sheldon grew up on the Monterey Bay in California, where the summers were dry and the humidity low, so gardening in the Southeast was quite a shock, she says. "I really had to learn about gardening here—coping with humid heat in the summer, when the nights do not cool down; constant issues with diseases and pests; and working in compacted clay."
She studied the vagaries of her new climate, went on garden tours for inspiration, and cultivated landscape designer mentors, whom she met through the Georgia Perennial Plant Association, of which she is now president. She also volunteers at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, as well as in the gardens of the Atlanta History Center. "And I learned from my mistakes. I killed a lot of plants, but you can't be intimidated by that, you just have to budget," she says with a laugh.
As if practicing a piece of music, going over and over some passages until they are effortless, Sheldon works in her yard, continually trying new plants or techniques until everything works together harmoniously. "You have to be fearless," she advises.