In the Garden with Gabriella Guidry
Gabriella Guidry is a Landscape Designer and Horticulturalist with seven years of professional experience as a private consultant in Southern California. She is also a graduate of The Ecology Center's Eco Apprentice program. Gabriella has helped numerous clients design beautiful outdoor spaces that match their style, personality and architecture of their property, including edible and ornamental gardens, patios, pools, bbq’s, walls, fences, pathways and more. One of Gabriella's specialties is designing organic edible gardens that include vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees and teaching her clients how to care for their organic garden.
Gabriella is also the creator of a blog called Ella's Gardenwhere she shares her best tips and inspiration for a beautiful garden and a healthy life.
We sat down with Gabriella in the garden to learn more about how her background and interests have driven her studies, career and lifestyle.
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What is your background and how did become interested in landscape design and gardening?
My happiest childhood memories are always being in a garden and harvesting the organic food we grew. As an adult I loved gardens so much that I completed two degrees, one in Landscape Design and one in Horticulture.
For a while my practice was only designing ornamental gardens, then came a period in my life when I became very ill with an autoimmune disease. I had flare-ups often even though I was taking many pills per day and often I ended in the hospital.
After realizing that my condition wasn’t getting better, and hearing about the many health benefits of eating organic, I decided to start an organic garden.
It began as a small 4’x4’ garden plot, but soon it turned into much more. After seeing my great success, friends and family started asking me to design edible gardens for them. Before I knew it, I was designing, installing an maintaining organic edible gardens for a living.
I did this for 7 years. Now I no longer maintain the gardens, I design them and empower my clients by teaching them how to care for the garden the organic way.
How long did it take you to start your own garden?
It took me about one year. First, I started with a small 4’x4’ plot. Once I knew I could do it, I started re-designing and adding more beds until I finished it, for a total of 120sq feet of planted space.
The garden produces 90% of of our vegetable needs for a family of three. Keeping in mind that we eat veggies 3x per day (including a green smoothie every day). We never have to worry about not having garlic or onions because we grow and store the years worth.
All the other veggies, like tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, beets, fresh herbs for cooking and lets not forget edible flowers for pretty salads (hint: it makes you want to eat them more when they are pretty), plus some surplus to can or freeze.
What's your favorite part of gardening?
To me gardening brings me serenity and tranquility and puts me in a place where I’m able to put my thoughts together. Being able to see how the plants grow and produce brings me great joy; and it is very rewarding to see the abundant fruits of my labor (no pun intended) too.
I enjoy seeing all the wonderful creatures that visit the garden like hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, mason bees, etc. It truly is a gift to be able to hear and watch as a mason bee visits my scarlet runner beans.
Watching it as it buzzes around, visiting each and every flower while carefully gathering pollen and nectar, truly brings me inner peace when life is so busy.
How has gardening changed your life, your perspective, and your everyday ritual?
Going back to my story, growing my own organic vegetables has given me my life back (and in all honesty has saved my life). I was so sick, and the onslaught of medications and therapies recommended by my Doctors were not making me better.
Further, the Doctors really didn’t have any answers for me. It got to a point where I felt like they quit trying to help. I was convinced that I would be living with this horrible condition for the rest of my life.
I gradually began to realize that the more I ate from my garden, the better I started to feel. Every morning I would pick fresh greens for my daily smoothie, plus all the veggies for my lunch.
Coming home after work, I’d pick more veggies and some fresh herbs for dinner (which BTW makes your food taste exquisite). Not only did I start feeling better but my autoimmune condition started to slowly fade away.
I truly believe that eating those nutrient-packed, fresh greens every morning is what helped my body heal. It has been many years since I’ve gone back to a doctor and I no longer take any pills.
The Ecology Center
How did you find out about The Ecology Center?
I had been looking for a place to take my knowledge further by studying permaculture. I googled permaculture and I found that TEC was offering courses, so I decided to sign up! The course was great and I recommend it to anyone that wants to learn more about living a more sustainable life.
Goals And Vision
What are your goals and vision with our collaboration?
I have learned so much during the past seven years of maintaing organic edible gardens, and I am very exited to share all the good tips that I’ve learned through trial and error.
That is why I created my blog and decided to collaborate with TEC. In the coming months I will be writing a monthly check list of things to do in order to keep your edible organic garden healthy and productive.
I hope to provide useful information that everyone can benefit from and encourage that they share this information with all their friends and family. Also, I am hoping that this will inspire more people to start their own edible organic garden.
Goals and Vision (Cont.)
No matter how small, even if its just in a small pot with herbs, I’m confident that everyone will soon realize the wonderful benefits gardening will bring to their lives. It truly is rewarding to go out and harvest your evening meal, or to step outside and harvest a few fresh herbs that you know are going to make your meal so much more delicious!
One Small Thing
What is the one small thing everyone could do that would make the biggest impact on our environment?
If all of us can do just a little bit, then our world would be different. Even if we each had a worm bin, we could positively impact our amount of waste and the life and health of our soils in a huge way with very little effort.
Worm bins are my favorite since they provide so much goodness compared to the amount of work required to maintain them and the space they take up.
This fall I will be writing a series on my blog dedicated to the benefits of using compost tea and having a worm bin. I am very exited to share this information and I’m looking forward to my collaborating with TEC.