Writing a garden’s mission statement and creating a garden name

If you write or plan to write your garden mission statement, please let me know; I plan to post the collection. Please include your Zone.  My garden mission statement is at the end.


Most gardens start out innocently enough, and I’ll venture to say, never with the intent to having a garden worthy of naming. But then, till by till, hole by hole, plant by plant, raindrop by raindrop, we have created a mix, a garden, that is as unique as a snowflake.  We look at our gardens with admiration, even when its an adolescence, not quite ready for the world, but with so much hope and promise.  Only the caregiver can see it fully grown and ready to face the world.

After putting in so much time, effort, money, and love into a project, it becomes apart of you, it’s only natural to think of your garden in  affectionate terms.  Naming the garden also allows some reflection of you as to how you want your garden represented to others.

Without a name for your garden, and later a mission statement, we grapple for words to describe it to others.  Taking a moment to identify your garden to yourself helps express it to others in an affectionate way, without being boastful, or worse, which is how I hear it most, in a not-so-worthy-way – especially when it is.

For the new year, I suggest you give your garden some deep labor-day-2008-054thought.  By doing so, you help to, not only identify yourself in relation to your garden, but elevate your garden’s status by naming it and then to concisely describing it by giving it a mission statement.  Next time someone asks you to describe your garden, you can do so in a very concise manner.

2008-may-4-0331It’s liberating, actually.  Try it; you’ll see.

Whether you name the garden first and then write your mission statement next or the other way around, it doesn’t matter.  Reflect on how you want others to view your garden.  Free yourself of an identity crisis.

philbrookraleighyoest-44For my garden in Raleigh, North Carolina, Helen’s Haven, I don’t remember which came first, my garden’s name or mission statement.  What I do know is, one day I wrote the merits of my garden.  From there came the name, Helen’s Haven, and the mission statement.

Helen’s Haven, a garden for everyone

And for one’s own

Helen’s Haven was designed to be sustainable and a safe haven for the three B’s: birds, bees, butterflies and of course humans, especially kids.

A Purposeful Garden

philbrookraleighyoest-36Helen’s Haven, was designed as a place to admire wildlife and a place where children can stop their play to taste a fig ripened on the shrub; pop a cherry tomato in their mouth warmed from the sun, fresh from the vine, and of course, to stop to smell the roses. While Helen’s Haven is a tidy garden, it isn’t fussy. An errant ball in the borders is nothing to worry about, nor are kids cutting through the beds, rolling in the grass, or picking flowers for an impromptu arrangement or to spread petals along the driveway and paths.  It was designed with my kids in mind.

A Wildlife Garden

Helen’s Haven is a certified wildlife garden by the National Wildlife Federation and a certified Monarch Waystation.

larvaeraleighyoest-4Plants are selected to attract and feed the birds, bees, and butterflies. This garden also provides feeding stations, nesting boxes and water. Many bees are attracted as pollinators, as well as, honey makers. For the butterflies, Helen’s Haven provides a dedicated host and nectar gardens filled with specific plants for the butterflies to lay their eggs, to feed larvae, to provide shelter to form chrysalis and to sip nectar as an adult.

An Organic Garden

An organic garden, Helen’s Haven uses no chemical herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides. If needed, only organic products are used.

Composed leaf mulch is used generously, retaining water, maintaining a consistent root temperature, improving soil texture, suppressing weeds, and looks great. In fact, very little weeding is necessary in Helen’s Haven. This mulch is replenished on a grand scale annually in the winter and on an as needed basis throughout the year in areas disturbed from adding new plantings and such.

A Waterwise Garden

A waterwise design, Helen’s Haven uses only harvested rainwater collected and stored in two 250 gallon reservoirs and four 80 gallon satellite storage units. With three zones, oasis, transitional and xeric, plants are chosen to flourish in each respective zone. There are also xeric plants in oasis zones and vice versa; however, no special treatment is given to these plants. If, in a given year, nature cares for them, that’s fine, if not, that’s fine as well.july-19-2008-004

The sign on the mail box reads “A Waterwise Garden, Watered with Harvested Rain.” The tall fescue grass is allowed to go dormant during the absence of rain – affectionally known as going “Dormant for the Moment.”

Sharing Helen’s Haven with Others

Helen’s Haven opens to garden clubs, schools and other educational groups and for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour. philbrookraleighyoest-47

Giving Back

Helen serves on the JC Raulston Arboretum Board of Advisors, represents the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour, leads the volunteer committees to maintain the JCRA Viburnum, Winter, and Butterfly gardens. Helen also serves on other committees to raise money for horticultural interest, including conceiving and starting the annual Sensational Seasonal Celebrations parties across the state to benefit the JCRA.


Helen’s Haven is a sustainable, wildlife habitat, created to attract and feed birds, bees, butterflies and for the enjoyment of friends, family, and visitors to educate, enjoy, and to understand we are the earth’s caretakers, so let’s take care.




  1. tina said

    It is such a beautiful and mature garden. Whatever its mission, I’d be very proud of it and happy to live there if I were one of the Bs. I am glad you wrote this out, my Army and college business training has us always thinking ‘mission’ statement. It sure makes me think what my mission is with my garden. You have a great night.

  2. Well, there you go then, give it some thought, write it and post it. I would love to see yours and would love to see it go through the gardening and blogging community.

  3. I would be a critter in your garden for sure! You have accomplished so much professionally and for mother nature. My gardens are new as you know and this will be fun for me. My cottage is called Copper Top but the gardens have no name. I will seriously take in to consideration your advice when thinking about the name. I know the mission or goals already. Ok, this is going to be fun. This is the kind of post I have to read and reread.

    Your idea is not new as naming the garden has been the topic of many a blog post. It’s that you presented the subject matter well and made me want to get right on it. I love when I’m inspired with a real mission. I can follow an idea pretty well and even consider myself an idea person. But I must say that you make the reader feel a part of the process. Fascinating!

    See you soon with the results.

  4. Forgot to say…it really is wonderful all the volunteer work included in your daily chores;) It makes the steamy composted mulch seem yummier. Things like mulch make all the difference.

    Remember my plant rescue project. Well..it’s a McDonalds restaurant that is doing a refurbish at break neck speed. They will totally tear down and rebuild on the same spot within a 2 month period. Sometime between now and March, I have to be ready. I’ll probably only have a few days to get the mature plants out and moved to my yard.

    I’ll get a temporary holding area ready for them and relocate as I figure out where they will be planted. Some of these plants are large and planted close together in an island type environment. I’m hoping I can get enough root to see them succeed. It’s a challenge but oh the opportunity if I can get them out of the ground.

  5. Thank you FGG, I look forward to reading yours. If it’s OK, I would like to add your garden name and missions statement to others I’ll collect for folks to view. Please include your zone and URL. Happy New Year. Let’s plan on seeing some coops in May!

  6. Grump Gardener said

    Geez Helen,

    Just when I get to enjoy a few day’s off, my garden now has to have a mission statement? I feel so unworthy, so directionless, so unfocused, so ashamed. In short, I need a beer. I’ll be back in a minute.

    OK, I’m better now. Here’s what I’ve come up with for a mission statement: “The mission of this garden shall be to make the neighbors feel ignorant and inadequate, while requiring only marginal inputs of labor.”

    I feel this expresses the heartbeat of America.

  7. Well done, Grumpy! Isn’t is a great way to start the new year? What is your zone so I can add it to my list of other mission statements I will soon post.

  8. tina said

    I’ll prepare a post and link to you. It will catch on I am sure. Now I have to really work to hammer it out precisely. Mine might not be as eloquently written as yours but I’ll try:)

  9. No rush, give it some thought. I will list you as pending for now. I hope we will help spread the word to build this concept in 2009. Thank you so much for participating. A mention for your readers to do so will be greatly appreciated.

  10. Ewa said

    Beautiful garden. is it cleome on the last picture?
    I need some thought about my mission statement.

  11. Yes, Ewa, it’s cleome. It reseeds happily and I love it. I look forward to seeing your garden mission statement.

  12. Excellent post. I agree entirely with giving your garden a name. My own garden, Bumblebee Garden, seems to have taken on a life of its own after I named it. Although I hadn’t considered a mission statement for my garden, I do have a number of “This I Believe” type statements, which certainly includes the garden. That is here: http://www.bumblebeeblog.com/2008/10/20/bumblebee-reflects-on-whats-important/

    Thanks for sharing this.

    National Gardening Examiner

  13. kate said

    What a wonderful idea … your garden is beautiful. I like the way you’ve thought out your garden’s mission statement. I need to think about a mission statement for my garden. I’ll get back to you … Happy New Year!!

  14. Kate and Robin, I’m ready for your garden statements whenever you are. It’s a tough refection; but once done, it will feel so nice…complete, actually.

  15. What a wonderful post.

    Here’s mine:

    Sheryl’s Kitchen Garden is both gift and giver.

  16. Thanks Sheryl! I like it very much. I’ll add it to the others that are coming in.

  17. Grumpy Gardener said

    The Grump lives in Zone 7B. Tentative name for his garden — “Grumpy’s Inferno.”

  18. Helen said

    WOW, we have zones in common…who knew?

  19. Esmaa Self said

    Oh what a glorious garden!

    And a great idea about the mission statement; I’d never written one down, though we have talked about our mission and have named the garden. So thanks for the nudge, here’s my gardening mission statement: Middleground is a safe haven, a place to be nourished and replenished; a property open to all life; a year-round organic gardening experiment run by an adventurous chef intent on improving the health of the planet, one bite at a time.

    Colorado, zone 5b

  20. ilonagarden said

    I love you, Grumpy Gardener! You’re a hoot.
    GWC I read your post previously, and again after the message- I’m not good with mission statements- although the concept intrigues me. I’ll try to think of something.

  21. Hi Helen!
    My post is up answering your challenge to name my garden!
    My Garden’s Name: The Putz
    Garden Theme: Decorating A Garden
    Zone: 7

    See you there and am nuts about seeing you at the Coops in May.

  22. Helen,

    Your garden is so lovely and you know that I’m going to have to visit you this summer! Appropriately named, too.

    I thought I’d retired from writing mission statements! 🙂

    I suppose that Giverny is taken? I’m struggling to name my garden, given that it’s still a toddler and I can’t tell yet if it will play well or run with scissors. I find myself moving from safe to risk taking with strong colors that will show up in this bright, open, southern light.

    The sections of my gardens are logically named, but I see the emotional attachment with having an overall name.

    I am still… Defining Your Home Garden.


  23. Hey Cameron,

    Don’t you know what you do in your first life follows you into the second? I guess you do now – Ha! I’ve told you before, someone with your professional attributes doesn’t stop when they retire, they just latch on to a new journey and begin again. That is what you did with Giverny, errr, I mean DYH. Whether you are playing safely or taking risk, there is still an underlining direction, that much I know. Who you are will make up that garden in the end (that and your community convenents.) If you know who you are, you have a mission statement. For now I’ll accept DYH Garden and hold your position with pending attached. You’ll see. You have it, you just have to write it down.

  24. Seriously, I have a difficult time separating my gardens from our cottage from our meadows from our woodlands from our neighborhood — in other words, it’s not just a garden, it’s the all of the elements blended together without distinct edges. It’s a lifestyle more than a place or a garden.

    So, I don’t want to name my garden alone.

  25. Ah, I see. Me too, and the statements that have come in are beyond broad, understanding the concept is huge. Serious gardeners look beyond the actual plants in the ground. Rather, it is the whole, one part could not exist without the other. So I understand.

  26. Jack said

    Helen, this is even better that a Business Mission Statement.

    Well…I guest this is your business — But what I mean is that it would be a delight to match up a gardener’s mission statement with the visual of the garden — a terrific lesson for Business.


    Jack Yoest
    Adjunct Professor of Business and Management
    Northern Virginia Community College

  27. Thanks Jack! Even though your are a professional business teacher, motivator, and all around great guy, I’ll still take your complement with some reservation. After all, you are my brother and bound to be biased.

  28. VP said

    Oh lord – I feel like I’ve gone back to work and I have a headache. I always found mission statements were the hardest of things to do. Even more so with a garden as what they are and represent is so broad.

    I’m with Cameron of DYHG. Perhaps the Plotting part of my blogname is a clue to my mission – I’m still working it out and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life 🙂

    A thought provoking post – I’ll try and say something about it over at my place in the next week or so!

    My garden’s approx zone 8, though the zones don’t quite match here in Britain owing to the wetter nature of our climate

  29. Well, good, it was written to be thought provoking. However, it was not meant to cause stress. Writing mine took me back to my engineering days when we created mission statements. As you may be able to guess, I delighted in these types of tasks. I find it clarifies things; sort of tidies up loose ends. Honestly, I don’t know what took me so long to write one for my garden. To a fault, I’m a thinker, dreamer, creator, and organizer. So I have thought of writing one, but never put pen to paper. Now that I have, I’m truly liberated.

    I submit, you don’t even have to have a garden to write one. The age of the garden is irrlevent. In reality, it comes down to your philosophy. You will build a garden based on who you are – your underling principles of your life and what you hold dear and how you want to be viewed by others. Building a garden makes a statement about who you are. Writing a mission statement gives focus on that statement; it becomes the compass allowing you to stay focus on your true north. Good luck in writing yours. I look forward to reading and posting all that are sent to me. Thanks, Helen

  30. Beth Jimenez said

    Thanks Helen…for giving your readers a bit of a challenge in naming and defining their gardens and gardening styles by way of a mission statement.It really makes one look at the ‘big picture’.Not an easy task when we spend so much time doing what we love in the garden..every day..good weather or bad…I’m going to think about this,give mine a name,write a mission statement and as Gov. Palin said…’git back to ya with it’.


  31. Beth, I look forward to seeing what you come up with. Please pass the word to the other Border Babes, volunteers to maintain the Mixed Border at the JC Raulston Arboretum. H

  32. Soekershof is a sacred enterprise, based on the appreciation of nature, humor, play, creation, expression and respect for the land and the growth and development of the people and plants that participate.

  33. […] you have a garden statement, send it along to Helen. She will be posting the collection. Much leaf […]

  34. My window box has a collection of plant pots and grow bags. All are organic. I do not use pesticides, and have been trying an array of organic pest controls. The purpose is to grow food, organically, and for me to learn in general about plants.

    The compost is peat free, organic compost.

    The seeds are ones I took straight from supermarket fruit and some are the second generation from my own plants.

    It also adds a lot to a home to have some plants – green areas. It gives it more life, depth.

  35. Dear Helen~

    Thank you for the fabuloud idea. Here is mine:


  36. OOOPS! Sorry Helen, I forgot to include that. I am in Oregon, and I am Zone 6 (Sunset) and Zone 8 (USDA)
    *grin* Happy Gardening!


  37. VP said

    Hi Helen,

    My post about mission statements is now up. I’ve thought about it and chosen to present an alternative viewpoint, in a constructive fashion I hope. I’ve enjoyed adding to the debate 🙂


    Asmentioned before, I’m in Zone 8 give or take a little rain.

  38. VP said

    Hi Helen – thanks for your very long comment back at my place 🙂

    From what you’ve said, we come from quite similar backgrounds – I’m a trained scientist, who’s also worked in IT off and on for a number of years as a business analyst. So I’m used to thinking analytically. I’m interested in what you said about leaving the detail to others – in the places I worked the mission statement process was seen as everyone being involved, so that everyone could then commit to the mission.

    However, I’ve been lucky enough to retire in my late 40s and I’ve enjoyed 18 months of just learning, trying out new things etc. It’s been good to try out new things like blogging and to find someone who doesn’t have to think analytically all the time 🙂 Your post didn’t cause me angst and as you can see from my post and the comments I’ve received it was thought provoking – just as you meant it to be.

    I think it’s just as valuable to have considered what you’ve said and decide that it’s not the wanted approach, because we still stop and evaluate what our gardens mean to us. And it’s always good to have an informed debate here in blogland. I think the link in my mission statement post to the Why do I garden? challenge I also took part in shows there are other ways of expressing what our gardens and gardening means to us. And I’ve linked to that post in my sidebar so that new readers to my blog can see where I’m coming from. No doubt some of your respondants who’ve written a mission statement may choose to link to their post about it for similar reasons.

    You’re most welcome to include my contribution 😀

  39. Thanks VP, I will include yours. Not everyone is posting their process, just the outcome. As such, I decided to just link their website or blog, if the have one.

    Please re-read my statement about the details. I agree a corporate mission statement should be written for all to embrace, I meant that once I understood the concept or philosophy, I couldn’t add additional value to the discussion when it came to debates about using a full stop, colon, semi-colon, etc. At this point my eyes glaze over. If given a concept and philosophy, then I can understand intuitively and the details no longer matter – to me.

    I also hope people understand that it has taken me a lot of years to learn who I am as a gardener. What I learned was that I garden for me. Today, I’m a grounded gardener. I fully understand what I want from my garden. Being able to now express it succinctly is good for me since not a day goes by that I don’t have discussions with people about their gardens or my own.

  40. Victoria said

    Hi, Helen, that’s a fascinating debate you’ve started and I’ve very much enjoyed getting involved. I came up with the description for my garden when I started opening under the National Gardens Scheme here in the UK and had to think of something to put in the guidebook. I don’t think of it so much as a mission statement as a solution to a deadline! It’s been very interesting to see other people thinking about how they’d describe their plots. I guess the key to the whole thing is in your title, Gardening With Confidence. By coming up with a mission statement, people crystallise exactly what they’re aiming at. Once you’ve done that, it’s a lot easier to achieve it.

    • You are exactly right, Victoria.
      BTW, we have the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days here, started by Frank Cabot, and modeled after the National Gardens Scheme, Yellow Book. I did my graduate work at Brunel while working at the American Embassy in London. During my time off, to took hold of that book and allowed it to destine me. I am so very proud to be apart of our Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour. North Carolina is very special in that we have 2 project garden funded by the GC, Montrose in Hillsborough (not far from here) and the Elizabeth Lawrence Garden in Charlotte (about 3 hours from here.) On September 19/20 our area will once again raise money for this great organization. This will be my 4th year running it. It will be my second time to open my garden.
      Thanks for stopping by! Helen

  41. My garden’s mission is to help me learn as much as I can about how to restore a habitat that could plausibly have existed on the site 500 years ago, but with an emphasis on perennials rather than annuals, an emphasis on plants and designs that I find attractive, and an addition of occasional non-native, non-invasive food plants that my fiancee and I enjoy. I plan to maintain this garden for only a year or two before we move elsewhere and I plant a more permanent garden.

  42. Philip said

    I found you on VP’s blog. I do not have a garden name or a mission statement yet, but I think I will let that percolate a bit and see what feels right. I loved your comments, too. This will be something interesting to think about, and I will let you know what we come up with.

  43. Y’all, thanks for your comments. Let it percolate, as Philip says, and get back with me. I will probably post on February 1st. Of the comments I’ve receive, the majority are willing to write one and are even intrigued about doing so. Then there are some (posted elsewhere) that blasted the idea. A very large percentage of them, in then end, summed up their garden. These summations were mission statements. Sorry to use use an antiquated business term. I think that is what threw folks. I have re-engineered the phrase to be a “Grounded Garden Statement.” Do you have yours? What is your Grounded Garden Statement? Please send them to me. After February, I will continue to keep a list of great Ground Garden Statements. I’m also including a link to your blog or website. Thanks, Helen

  44. My garden doesn’t have a name, unless “the garden” can be considered a name as in, “I’ll be in the garden”. I have thought of my mission for the garden and posted it on my blog. It is to “emphasize plants that will attract winged creatures to the garden, and to take the time to pause and enjoy watching them”. Weeding is fine, but taking time to sit and watch is important too. That is when you see the most amazing things. My garden is in the southern part of the Adirondack Park. It is zone 4, but occasionally I have luck with a zone 5 plant. I do believe that global warming is beginning to have an effect on us. I can’t imagine living in zone 7. A friend who was living in Virginia handed me a garden book one day that was titled “Heaven in Zone Seven” I looked at her and said, “Why are you showing me this?” I see so many zone 6 and 7 plants that I can only dream of growing. For now I will look forward to spring and the emergence of the wild violets and bloodroot.

  45. kk said

    OK Helen,
    At first I was thinking “Mission Statement ??? I dont need no stinking Mission Statement.” Of course it did get me to thinking, “if I did have one what would it be?” Without really knowing it I DID have a mission statement already, it just was never verbalized or written. But I knew what I wanted from my garden before I began to build it. Looking back now, Im pretty satisfied. Im starting to recieve dividends as my garden begins to mature. Needless to say, there is always room for improvement, nor can I ever leave it alone. So Here it is…My Garden (thats what i call it) Zone 8

    The goal of My Garden is to provide a creative outlet for me while challenging my design and horticultural skills, by creating pleasing plant combinations and arrangments that showcase the seasonality of the garden. I strive for the garden to be wildlife and pet friendly. Plant selection and design of spaces endevor to punctuate the senses and calm the soul. The intent of My Garden is to act as an extension of the house to facilitate outdoor living while providing privacy from the neighbors, yet evoking a sense of enclosure. I look to My Garden to supply seasonal fresh cut flowers and fresh picked vegetables. It is my hope to project a sense of place; home.

  46. […] Here is the original post to refresh your memory or to get you up to speed Garden Mission Statement […]

  47. Sally said

    This exercise motivated me to resume blogging after a long absence. Thank you for the nudge. My mission statement :

    My garden will be a place of peace and abundance for the body, mind and spirit. It will welcome, nourish, teach and soothe. It will serve to honor its part in the harmony, in the dance, and in the continuity of our earth.

    My mission statement post can be found at

    Sally Zone 7 in the Rogue Valley of southern Oregon

  48. […] Ace gardener, Helen Yoest, issued a fun challenge for her readers to first name their garden, then write a garden mission statement. (See that blog entry here.) […]

  49. […] just love it.  Most of my readers know I’m  all about naming the garden – click here Creating a Garden Name It seem all the more important to me; I had a name, but no sign.  Now I […]

  50. […] in December of 2008, fellow garden blogger Helen Yoest put out the call, encouraging gardeners to write their own garden mission statement.  She said: […]

  51. […] provide a path and guide the decision making. Back in December of 2008, fellow garden blogger Helen Yoest put out the call, encouraging gardeners to write their own garden mission statement. She said: […]

  52. Reblogged this on EntwinedLife and commented:
    Over the weekend, speaking with many gardeners visiting the Open Days Tour – the conversation came up about naming your garden… some thought it pretentious,which was my first thought, but when put into perspective as Helen Yoest did in a 2008 challenge, clearly it gives your garden a meaning!

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: