Marianne Willburn

About Marianne Willburn

Marianne is the mother of two, wife of one and the voice of The Small Town Gardener. She gardens and writes from her home in the scenic (and exceptionally convenient) heart of Virginia's wine country.

Neither an Influencer Nor a Follower Be

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[ed. The following article can also be found stirring up comments at Garden Rant later this week.] Tesselaar’s Blue Storm Agapanthus is worth growing because it’s a high-impact, no-nonsense plant, not because it typifies the 2016 Color of the Year “Serenity” – photo credit: Tesselaar Plants, 2006 Though I enjoy dressing well, I’m [...]


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Maybe it's time to stop saying "I should do that this year..." and put the date firmly on the calendar. If you've heard about the Philadelphia Flower show but never been, find a companion, drive into beautiful Philadelphia and experience the magic that wows over a quarter-million visitors every year. The show couldn't be at a better time for [...]

New Book Coming Spring 2017!

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Thrilled to announce that I have recently signed a contract with Skyhorse Publishing for a book to be released in Spring 2017. It’s about creating a garden wherever life finds you, even when it’s not where you thought you’d be by now. If you’re a regular reader of The Small Town Gardener, you’ll know how [...]


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In my part of the world, Winter arrives as a gentle jolly spirit and departs like a raving banshee. However, before I start navigating three-inch ice with an ancient Land Cruiser, I plan to enjoy the next month of merry merry merry. In order to do that, I need to be organized. In order [...]

It’s Time to Get Serious About Your Vegetables

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What once was Melones Reservoir in Calaveras County. If you look closely you can see the old bridge once covered by a hundred feet of water. I’m writing from California this week. My whereabouts are usually not relevant in an age of laptops, Wi-Fi cafes and toilet texting, but this week they are, [...]

Quick Garden Fixes – guest post by Tesselaar Plants

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This month a guest post from Tesselaar Plants that I found exceedingly helpful in guiding the gardener to take a hard look at  things that may or may not be working in his or her garden - and then taking steps to solve them.  Tesselaar grows some gorgeous plants, but many of them are not [...]

Just Wait Until Next Year

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By the beginning of September, many gardeners are thinking about next year’s garden. Whatever failures have been experienced this year – whatever insults have been suffered – all are erased by a killing frost and the ability to start again. I am just as guilty of the sweet pleasures of delusional thinking, but there is [...]

Urban Chickens: The bigger picture

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Urban chickens a nuisance? I had four in this coop and no one ever knew... Well, the chickens have won. Not of course the literal chickens, exiled as pets by virtue of prejudice and ignorance, but the figurative chickens – our local leaders who would rather stand obstinately on a disintegrating platform than [...]

HOA Madness – or – Just Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

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Yeah. This'll get the clipboards out. Now I have definitely heard everything. Whilst chatting with a friend the other night over landscaping and other related topics that make others at the table suddenly realize they need to get up and refill their glasses, I was told that a local subdivision homeowners’ association board [...]

Great Gardens – Great People!

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Kathy Jentz from Washington Gardener Magazine and yours truly at the Urban Homestead in Pasadena, where the Dervaes family has been farming their 1/5 of an acre for 30 years - harvesting over 6000 pounds of veg annually! Love my job!  Hanging with plant people at the 67th Annual Garden Writers Symposium in [...]