There is no safe and easy way to gardening. You can’t learn how to garden by sitting in a comfortable chair and reading gardening books. You must plunge in; you must be willing to stand the back-ache and the soiled hands. You must be willing to be seen, at all hours, in disreputable clothes. You must have the patience of Job and the resignation of a saint. And after you have acquired these virtues you can count yourself a gardener. So many good people think that gardening is an arty sport, a thing to be played with when you will. How wrong they are! For if you would be sister to the sun and brother to the wind, you must work and work hard.
Experimentation is at the core of building a garden. It’s only through trial, error, and dead plants that you discover what works. I like that.
Control, and the complete lack thereof, is another gardening paradox. As we design plantings and decide what the overall look and feel of the garden will be, we’re in control. However, as soon as we plant and step away, we’ve given up that control and nature takes over; that’s when strange and wonderful, sometimes unfortunate, things happen. As gardeners, we learn to let go and later how to step back in and reclaim control–prune, remove, redesign–and then give up control again.
My garden will never be finished. I’m constantly learning about plants, about gardening in my climate, and about design, so what I want from my garden changes.
Gardening is not a straight line. There are many detours along the way, and thankfully, you never actually arrive at the finish.
At its most inspiring, I find gardening to be a series of experiments: exciting, challenging, and sometimes surprising experiments.
For me, life in the garden has been both formative and essential; it has given me gardener’s eyes and an extra way of looking about me, and an abiding and enriching engagement, whether I have been out there and hands-on in the garden, or just gardening in the mind, planning for the future, conjuring up virtual gardens.
The gardening self becomes a separate persona, waiting to be indulged when possible, and never entirely subdued–always noticing, appreciating, recording. . . . Gardening has this embracing quality in that it colors the way you look at the world: everything that grows, and the way in which it grows, now catches your attention; the gardening eye assesses, queries, is sometimes judgmental–quite opinionated, gardeners.
When you find that you are a gardener, things change; this latent addiction does not take over your life–it can’t, you have other commitments–but it gives it new direction. Not just in terms of spare-time employment, but you now have extra vision–gardening vision. . . . I think it is true; you see the world with gardening eyes, you see what is growing where, you appreciate and assess and you wonder what that is if it is unfamiliar, and furthermore your situation in time is subtly changed, part of you lives now in garden time; you project forward, and back, you are no longer stuck always in the here and now.
What cannot be disputed is that gardens themselves are eloquent, in that they speak for their owners. By their gardens ye shall know them.