Columnist will share tips, love of gardening

Stone Mountain gardener Tara Dillard has made just about every mistake you can make in a garden, and now she wants to help others avoid her blunders.

Along with working full time for her own garden design firm, Dillard spends her free time speaking about gardening at Georgia Gwinnett College, the Atlanta Botanical Garden and across the nation. She also shares her tips on gardening shows on CBS, PBS and HGTV. She's written five books about gardening.

And now, Dillard will share her gardening wisdom each week in a column for the Gwinnett Daily Post. Her column will debut April 12.

Dillard, who has won a national writing award from the Garden Writers Association, said she's always been drawn to writing about gardening.

"I have been so well-mentored in gardening, and I feel strongly that I need to get it out. I need to put down on paper what I learned," Dillard said. "It's been a gift to me, and you can't get this information just from going to school or even gardening yourself. Gardeners need to share."

Dillard has been gardening since she was a teenager, when she first fell in love with her grandmother's Georgia garden. Her grandmother had flowers Dillard, having grown up in Texas, had never seen before. She tended the garden on summer visits and was hooked for life.

"I love the fragrance, I love getting dirty, I love getting tired and sweaty," Dillard said.

Dillard graduated college with a degree in engineering, but her passion for flowers and plants led her to return to school to get a degree in horticulture. Soon after, she started her own business, A Garden View, specializing in residential design and installation.

Dillard said her biggest teacher has been her own garden and yard in Stone Mountain. For 20 years now, she's done all the gardening and landscaping on her property.

"I'm very hands-on, I do all the maintenance. I laid my own stone, my own gravel, my own bricks," Dillard said.

One of her proudest moments each year is opening her home garden to the public, something she does once in the summer and once in the winter. Dillard's next open garden is scheduled for May 12.

Dillard's philosophy is gardens that are well-designed from the start can be low-maintenance additions to the landscape. But she also believes a garden can be more than just attractive.

"I believe strongly that gardening puts us in tune with what we're supposed to be in tune with - with Mother Nature," Dillard said. "I like to call my garden a moat of grace around my home. I've had health problems, my husband has had health problems, we've had loved ones die, yet I know where I can go to feel better, and that's in the garden."