Harmony in the Garden Blog

Design your Garden Toolkit – a review, a story, and a giveaway


Recently my good friend, Michelle Gervais (who was also the former garden editor of Fine Gardening magazine for many, many years) asked me to take a look at her new book ‘Design your Garden Toolkit.’

I jumped at the chance, knowing that her years of knowledge and down-to-earth approach would make for a fantastic book. But it’s so much more.

Michelle makes learning about the fundamentals of garden design easy to comprehend (perfect for new gardeners out there).

She not only simplifies garden design into bite-sized segments but also profiles 128 plant selections (not too few, not too many in my opinion).

But one of the best parts of the book are the stickers.



Have any of you seen the stunning adult coloring books on the market over the past few years? (here’s one of my favorites, by Debra Lee Baldwin)

If you’ve tried them, you’ve probably found them to be incredibly relaxing, creative, and a welcome break from the day-to-day routines we all fall into.

Well, Michelle’s book includes 150 beautifully illustrated (and botanically correct), high-quality, and reusable stickers, as well as a heavy-duty fold-out design board.

Stickers are the new colored pencils!

But knowing a book is great is one thing, but getting to see the magic it can create in your family is quite another.  



A few weeks ago I spent a long-weekend at Tahoe with my mother and daughter. We had been working in the garden for two days and were exhausted one night after dinner.

Michelle’s book was sitting on the table, and before I knew it my daughter (who, thank the good Lord above, has FINALLY been bitten by the gardening bug!) grabbed the book and started thumbing through it. She’s met Michelle many times and was curious to see what her new book was all about.

Having loved playing with stickers throughout her childhood, she was pretty darn excited to see them once again!

She quickly began getting into her ‘sticker zone’ (which I hadn’t seen in many, many years!) and started designing her ideal garden.


I quietly sat there not saying much for fear it would break the spell, and watched as her garden bed began to take shape with pretty shades of pink and white.

But being someone who loves to teach others about garden design, I very nonchalantly asked ‘what if you combined a large-leafed plant next to that smaller-leafed one for more contrast…’

I pushed my luck and tried again: ‘I wonder what that bed would look like in the winter with only flowering perennials? Are there any plants that would look good year-round?”  But instead of rolling her eyes at me, she stuck with it and re-arranged the bed again, adding a few evergreen plants.

Could it possibly be that she was learning a bit about design?

Oh, you bet my heart was racing!


She then wiped the slate clean and surprised me with this:

Okay mom, now I’ll design a bed that you’d design.’ I couldn’t WAIT to see what this would look like.

But to my delight, she started to say things like ‘even though this isn’t MY taste, I know it’s what you like…’ and added some tall grasses.  And not just one, but several, saying she knows I like to have more than one of a plant.

YES, YES, YES!   I DO love grasses (want proof?  Click here and here)

Then she said ‘…and I know you love dark, moody colors’ and began adding maroon foliaged plants.

(OMG – pinch me! Was this really happening?)


But wait – it gets even better!

My mom (who many of you know by now is an amazing gardener in her own right) saunters over and says she wants a turn.

So now she gets into her own ‘sticker zone’ and begins designing a garden bed.

My daughter and I watched as she worked away, swapping this sticker for that one (and narrating why she was doing it, helping to give yet another design perspective for my daughter) and the magic began to happen.


My mom talked about how she creates layers within a garden bed using field stones to add height (there was a lovely stone sticker, but she wanted about ten more – ha!), and how she likes to use chartreuse with maroon for lots of impact.

I quietly sat there, watching as my mother and daughter had so much fun designing and re-designing their garden beds, trying not to let them see my eyes welling up with pride.

Three generations bonding over my good friend’s book.




And now for the giveaway!    Michelle Gervais has generously offered a SIGNED copy of her book to one of my lucky readers.  To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment below – it’s as easy as that!

Even though I can’t respond to giveaway blog comments (if I do, it’ll skew the random number generator I use to pick the winner), please know that I read every one and appreciate what you all have to say!


……………………………………..The Fine Print…………………………………..


UPDATE:  Congratulations, Laurel Johnson!  You won a copy of Michelle’s book (I’ve just sent you an email)   Thanks for submitting your comments, everyone, they were all so nice to read.

A random winner will be chosen by midnight July 2nd and contacted within 24 hours. If the proposed winner forfeits or does not claim the prize by July 9th, the prize will be re-awarded based on the sponsor’s sole discretion. All prizes will be awarded.

Please provide your first and last name to enter this contest so I can immediately contact you if you win. The winner agrees to allow his/her first name to be mentioned in conjunction with this giveaway.

This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only, who are over the age of 18 years old. No purchase necessary to win. This sweepstake is also void where prohibited by law and by entering this giveaway, you agree to these conditions.

A few more details:  This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only, who are over the age of 18 years old. No purchase necessary to win. This sweepstakes is VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW (wherever that is, I’d sure hate to live there!)  By entering this giveaway, you agree to these conditions.


Enjoyed this article?  Please share it with others: 

Please leave a comment:


  • Such a harmonious scene of grandmother and granddaughter. I got interested in the book after reading your review.

  • Read the blog and straightaway ordered the book. When it came, I started in right away. The design principals are clearly laid out,and the design process is straight forward and easy to follow. It is fun and more of a challenge that you might suspect at first.

    There is one caveat. I live in Zone 9b. Only 19 (out of 45) of the “All Season Plants” are rated for Zone 9,versus 43 and 39 for Zones 7 and 8 respectively. Of the Zone 9 plants many are grasses or water loving plants (e.g. colocasia esculenta – elephant ears) that are not suited for this California (Carmel Valley) climate. How about a water-wise, xeric, or Mediterranean set of plant stickers. That would be perfect.

  • Hi Rebecca – this book sounds like so much fun! I can’t wait to try it. even if I am not a winner, I would like to purchase one.

    I have been looking at my garden from the inside instead of the outside due to knee replacement surgery; I am dying to try something new since all I do is sit and stare and think happy thoughts about the people who can enjoy this gorgeous weather – even if I can’t at the moment

    I don’t have a website – do I have to for this?

  • What a wonderful, fun, reusable way to teach and experiment with garden concepts—using stickers to help in visualization. I struggle with imagining the final look in all design areas. What a cool tool to bridge that gap. I can’t wait to try it!!

  • Michelle definitely created the perfect gift for new and experienced gardeners alike. I love that the stickers are reusable, this is a new version of ‘game night’! How delightfully fun!

  • Rebecca, To see your daughter AND Mother enjoying working with stickers for a garden IS priceless! I would love to have a chance to try this also😇 Again, I want you to know since you spoke to my Village Garden Club of La Jolla, I have tried to enhance my gardening skills and this would seem to be a really good read to start some new ideas…

  • Wow! As a beginner gardener, I’ve been sitting here looking at my backyard not knowing where to start. With stickers, of course! This will be an education in itself learning names of plants. I can’t wait to start!

  • The concept is genius. The sticker would increase visualization… and that’s the help I need. Would love to own this book.

  • I could see spending rainy days spent designing gardens with this book and it’s tools, what fun it would be!

  • Garden design is a favorite hobby. Using stickers is an easy way to do a layout, can’t wait to try it!

  • Love the idea of stickers to plan a garden.

  • What a genius idea! Makes garden design more accessible for everyone from beginner to experienced gardener. And who doesn’t enjoy or have fun using colorful stickers!?!

  • I love the idea of using stickers to envision a garden. I am helping a friend redo her garden. She has an illness that keeps her from being able to get out much. I am redesigning her front garden as a gift for her so that she can look at something lovely when she sits on her front porch. I would love to share the stickers with her as I think it is something we could use together for inspiration and experimentation.

  • This is such a great idea-stickers so you can really learn about garden design! I would love one of these books- just so I can really learn how to design gardens.

  • What a great idea and such a heart warming family time together, soul to soul.

  • An amazing idea. A great way to teach the elements of garden design.

  • What a wonderful way to play with garden design. This would be an ideal way to improve many of our small garden plots and give them eye appeal. Thanks for the opportunity to hopefully be the owner of this unique book!

  • Lovely idea to spark creativity and explorations! Delighted to know about this opportunity to play with color, texture and form!

    Hope it’s a big hit and enjoyed by many .

  • I love stickers! This looks like a wonderful book.

  • This looks like fun – even for me, a newbie designer!! Thanks for giving us this great resource. Love the story of the fun afternoon the three of you had!!

  • I was always afraid I would create a mess, but now that I am cofined to a bed/wheelchair for 8 more weeks, I could lose myself in designing my patio. I had an accident on vacation, and 4 weeks have gone by, now just 8 more. What a lovely way to have something to really look forward to doing. So happy you are back with us. Love and Hugs, jean Gillette

  • We are in the process of redoing a very neglected yard and this book would be so helpful for “seeing before planting”!

  • I love the concept. It’s appealing to think about designing with stickers – instant visual feedback!

  • Oooh,ooooh,ooooh! Pick me! Or, I’ll have to ask for it for my birthday. Or Christmas. Or Mother’s Day. Or National Arbor Day…:-)

  • Love this story! My daughter and grand daughter would love to do this with me, I know.

  • This would be an awesome book to own. Looks like so much fun!

  • What a great tool! I moved to the Olympic Peninsula 12 years ago and got bitten hard by the gardening bug. This book would have saved the lives of many plants and me lots of money.

  • What a terrific idea! A fun way to learn. You can let your imagination run wild.

  • This book sounds awesome! Just what I need for the butterfly garden I am about to start!

  • What a great idea. I have a hard time imagining what a new plant in a 4 inch pot or even in a gallon container will become so I tend to stick to the tried and true.

  • Sounds like a great idea. I wish I had this book with plants that will survive in my microclimate (Lamorinda area) in California.

  • This book seems to have uniquely solved the problem during the planning stage, of visualizing how a garden will look once planteed.

  • PS Hoping you’ll share some photos of your progress inthe garden!

  • What a fun concept and an excellent way for people intimdated by the idea of designing a garden to try their own ideas. I know friends who would really enjoy this book as would I!!

  • Design is my favorite part of gardening and I think the most important. Using stickers sounds like fun and a easier way to get the desired garden mood.

  • Sounds like such a fun way to learn more about designing. Summer days in Lake Tahoe with your mom and daughter, why that sounds like heaven to me. Time for me to get myself back up there and surround myself with all of that beauty.

  • I don’t have a lot of confidence in garden design – this book might really help!

  • Reusable stickers to help design and redsign garden plans. What a great idea!
    I have had difficulty finding good garden design books that guide you in making decisions and choices based on your own unique conditions. I find online tools to be tedious (maybe my age is showing here) proviidng a disappointing view of design plans.
    Thanks fro sharing the photos of your family having some fun with the plans.
    I have such wonderful memories if Lake Tahoe with it’s cryatal clear waters. Glad to hear you found some old-fashioned ways to enjoy the slower pace of life at the lake that enaged the generations without electronics so prevalent in our lives today!

  • Garden design obviously runs in your family’s DNA. How exciting that Emily is catching the gardening bug! I would love to win Michelle’s book. I have a lot to learn about garden design. Stickers just might do the trick!

  • This was a great example of how to use this book! I would love it as a tool to help others learn too!!

  • I always enjoy reading your articles Rebecca! You speak so naturally and from the heart. This is a great one featuring three generations of women who are so close. This book looks awesome, as a MG I know my plants and where they should go, but not always the best design for them. Thanks for sharing!!

  • A fabulous idea that is not in the least intimidating (as are many computer design programs). I love it!

  • A book like this one would have been SO helpful when I was a university student studying herbs. The class project was to design our own herb garden, and I had such fun! Stickers would have been ideal, as my artistic abilities didn’t do justice to my visions. I’d love to explore this book with my grandchildren! Thank you for sharing.

  • What a wonderful way to plan a new garden or refine an existing one. Maybe creating a garden with stickers would even curb my plantaholic tendencies. One can only hope!

  • Love your story about the multigenerational sticker party!

  • You even had my eyes welling up! Such a lovely story.

  • Oh this is so heartwarming…what a fortunate girl Emily is to have two magical designers surrounding her. She must have amazing gardening genetics!!!
    So happy for your special time together. 💕💕💕🌸🌸🌸

  • Oh the way it brings generations together is my favorite oart of gardening! From my grandmother, to me to my daughter and now to 4 granddaughters! love your article!

  • What an awesome idea….stickers to help design your garden! One could spend hours designing and learning with this book… both new and experienced gardeners.

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