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Originally published Sunday, April 8, 2012 at 9:00 PM

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Gather all your garden ideas

Yardsmart: Horticulturist and landscape designer Maureen Gilmer shares how to use the Internet to roundup all your favorite gardening ideas.

Scripps Howard News Service

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For years I used a valuable technique for helping my landscape-design clients communicate better. I'd ask them to go through their back issues of magazines and tear out pictures that show how they want their landscape to look. When they hand over their package of tear sheets, I know exactly what they want.

Most people cannot articulate elements of design. They don't have a grasp of the language and, therefore, cannot tell me in aesthetic terms what they want both conceptually and visually. Problem is, magazines aren't so popular anymore; their numbers have dwindled substantially due to lack of advertising. They are also expensive, making tear-sheet gathering rather costly. So finding pictures often led to a stack of swanky garden books with slips of paper marking dozens of pages of photos. This is harder for me to work with because I can't see it all at once like I could with the tear sheets, and I can't put them in my client file.

Then I discovered a secret weapon for conveying aesthetic elements without language. It's a new social site called Pinterest.com. In short, this new site is an electronic bulletin board geared for pinning up digital pictures on the Internet. You can browse the world for sites that feature great landscape projects. If I find a picture on a site, I simply hit the newly installed "Pin It" button on my task bar. This click copies the picture along with its website address for import directly into Pinterest. Any time I click on the picture it takes me to the site of origin so I can buy, learn more or find additional images.

My experiment led me to create a Small Budget Gardening Pinterest board where I'm collecting all the innovative ideas I can find for low-cost garden making. You can find it at http://pinterest.com/maureengilmer/small-budget-gardening/ or just type "Small Budget Gardening" into the search box on the Pinterest home page. Up comes the board with more than 200 new ideas for cheap or free garden making. I make sure that everything here is doable for the average person.

I often "repin" ideas that come from other pinners' boards, and often the collections of others of similar interest are treasure troves, too. My Small Budget Gardening board is always growing with new pins and repins because I'm absolutely addicted to this site. Click "follow" and you'll be notified of all my new discoveries. It feels like I'm shopping the world without spending a penny, and that feels good.

For gardeners, there are many other boards filled with great gardening ideas. This is the best source of raised beds for home food gardens, which has become the subject of my newest Pinterest board. If you're planning to build a garden this year, check Pinterest for bed shapes, arrangements and materials.

Pinterest is a valuable tool. If you're remodeling or redecorating your house, this is a superior way to hunt for and gather ideas and products. If you're a foodie, it's your online photo recipe book.

For anyone looking for great gardening ideas this spring, search Pinterest for the best of the Web. Travel the world, bring things home and set them up on a single board where you can study, compare, cull or add to anytime you want. And when you give your board to a new designer, he or she will know exactly what you have in mind.

Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at www.MoPlants.com. Contact her at mogilmer@yahoo.com.

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