In Print – More gardeners write their garden mission statement

Local garden writer for the News and Observer, Carol Stein, in her column The Grapevine, takes the challenge to write her garden mission statement.

This challenge was first published on my blog, December 31, 2008.  My site has received many thousands of hits and dozens of other bloggers wrote their perspective of the challenge and ultimately, many wrote a mission statement for their garden.

Chick here to read Carol’s column

My mission statement is below.  On February 14th, Valentine’s Day, I plan to post the mission statements sent to me.  Why Valentine’s Day?  For the garden love in our lives.

If you write or plan to write your garden mission statement, please let me know; I will post collection of February 14, 2009 Please include your Zone.  My garden mission statement is at the end.

While I enjoyed every mission statement sent in, it was the journey expressed by the gardener that gave me the greatest joy.  Carol’s column is one great example.  I see a book in my future.  The gardens, the journey, the statements.  Remember, there is no pressure.  Just speak from your heart – it’s about the journey you are taking with your garden.  Nothing more, nothing less.


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, amendment by amendment, hole by hole, plant by plant, mulch by mulch, 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 our gardens, 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 the 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-36My garden, Helen’s Haven, was designed as a place to admire the three B’s 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.

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. Helen’s Haven is considered a four season garden, with the best showing in summer, fall, and winter.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. […] If you write or plan to write your garden mission statement, please let me know; I will post collection of February 14, 2009 Please include your Zone. My garden mission statement is at the end. Original post: In Print – More gardeners write their garden mission statement … […]

  2. Dear Helen Yoest:

    As a Zone 5a gardener, at the Ohio & Pennsylvania border / Lake Erie nexis,
    I will be sending on Raku Place’s mission statement in a few days.

    Images of the gardens can be seen on my website under Raku Place.

    Yours truly,

    Susan Kemenyffy

  3. I remember reading about this a while back and it has often crossed my mind since then. I suppose I’ll be mulling this over as I browse the seed catalogs here in the next few days. Perhaps it will help to give me a bit of focus for this year when so many other things are commanding my attention.

    Robin Wedewer

  4. Hey Robin,

    I look forward to see yours. What’s nice about this, is everyone who tends the earth (or potted earth) qualifies. All that matters is what your garden means to you and from here purpose – a mission – comes clear.

  5. Kristine said

    the idea of the mission statement is awesome!

  6. Hey Kristine,
    When you write yours, send it to me so I can post!

  7. OH yes, count me in. I have and am learning so many things from you. Thank you for it. I do love that Cleome. I’m going to plant some with the tall Garden Verbena.

  8. Kristine said

    the question i have for you is how big is your garden, must be fairly big, and how did you get registered, totally cool!

  9. Hey Kristine, my garden is on a half acre. But it doesn’t need to be big to be registered as a National Wildlife Habitat. I have helped clients register condos. As long as food, water, cover, and places to raise young are provided. I will be doing a story soon. In the meantime, checkk out

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