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A Chat With Doug Jimerson of Better Homes and Gardens

We're banning the words "green thumb" from Outdoors Week, but that's not to say we aren't continually fascinated by the people who have them. Doug Jimerson is one such person—the Better Homes and Gardens editorial director for garden content has been gardening since age 4 and maintains the original BHG test garden in the backyard of his Iowa home. We caught up with Jimerson to hammer out a few pressing questions:

Tell us: what do you enjoy most about photographing gardens, as opposed to houses?
I love the fact that gardens are an ever-changing tapestry. On any given day, flowers open and close, butterflies and birds flit through the borders, colors change as the sun moves, and the overall view varies from moment to moment.

What's most challenging?
The weather! Shooting outdoors is not easy when the wind is whipping plants around and the sun is beating down. Or, when you get an unexpected downpour. The best time to shoot is in the early morning or late afternoon when there’s a high overcast sky and no wind. So, sometimes your window of opportunity for a great photo is limited.

Do you have a particular style or aesthetic you find yourself continually drawn to, either on a personal or a professional level?
In Better Homes and Gardens we try to showcase all types of gardens in all regions of the country. But, personally I gravitate to a more informal look with flowers and vegetables tumbling over each other. I also love plants that offer fragrance as well as color, such as lilacs, peonies, roses, and lilies.

In your opinion, is there one thing every garden must have to be stylish?
Every garden, regardless of style, needs a focal point. Something to draw the eye and give the garden a sense of order. Focal points can be anything from a well-placed garden bench to a full-blown gazebo. A focal point should also provide a sense of destination in a garden.

Name a couple of outdoor places that have inspired you recently.
I’ve seen thousands of amazing private gardens in my time at Better Homes and Gardens, but I also get inspired by some of America’s amazing public gardens such as the Chicago Botanic Garden, the St. Louis Botanic Garden, and Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. Almost every major city in the U.S. has a great public garden and most never fail to inspire me. Better Homes and Gardens supports National Public Gardens Day in May, but we also encourage people to visit and enjoy them year round.

Talk a little about any and all outdoor space you have in your own home.
We have the original Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden—the Test Garden today is located outside our downtown Des Moines corporate headquarters. Years ago, we built a single garden where I live and that’s now expanded into four major gardens: a raised bed formal garden, a large informal garden with a water feature, a huge shade garden with a stream, and a cottage-style garden with a greenhouse. I have about a quarter acre in total devoted to these gardens.

What would you say your favorite outdoor activities are?
Besides gardening, I love to kayak on a nearby lake. I also raise Border Collies and train them to herd our small flock of sheep. We also have draft horses and my wife and I have learned how to use them to pull carts.

What's your favorite flower in a garden?
I get asked this all the time and I can’t give an answer. I’m an equal opportunity gardener. There are almost no plants that I would turn down. I guess if I was forced to give an answer I’d lean toward peonies, roses, and herbs.

And for the dinner table?
That would be anything that’s in bloom in our garden at a given time. We often mix roadside flowers with blooms from our own garden.

· Better Homes & Gardens [official site]