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Is Gardening Too Complicated?

Report From PIA – April 3

On a recent garden writer’s listserv, the topic that generated a great deal of discussion carried the subject line, “Is Gardening Too Complicated?” The premise the author presented asked if garden writers, with their you-need-to-do-this-but-by-all-means-don’t-consider-that writing might actually be discouraging people from gardening.

I responded to this in another post here, but was reminded of the “Is Gardening Too Complicated?” topic when I read Seth Godin’s blog post titled Failure, success and neither. He said, “The math is magical: you can pile up lots of failures and still keep rolling, but you only need one juicy success to build a career.” And I thought, “So it is in the garden.”

The math in our landscapes is also magical. We can plant numerous shrubs and perennial that die, but success with one spectacular plant compensates for all failures, and we go on as gardeners.

Seth goes on to say “If you spend your days avoiding failure by doing not much worth criticizing, you’ll never have a shot at success. Avoiding the thing that’s easy to survive keeps you from encountering the very thing you’re after.”

Exactly! If we think that gardening is too complicated, and we avoid doing anything because we’re worried that what we do might be wrong, or our plants may die, we deny ourselves the pleasures, the benefits, and the beauty of the landscape that does endure.

In the garden, and all of life, it’s a matter of plunging in. We can fly by the seat of our pants, or do some reading and research, but at the end of the day it’s all a matter of being willing to pile up the failures and relish in the successes.

A side note, here, off the topic but nevertheless on my mind: Several of you have approached me over the past few months, in person or by email, to say that you begin your day by reading this blog. I cannot fully express how much this touches my heart and how pleased I am that you are with me, here on this blog and in spirit. I often write that everything is connected to everything else, and I am strengthened and grateful to know that I’m linked to you.

When we try and grow plants that are not hardy where we live, there is always the chance that we'll fail. This epiphyllum is a tropical plant, and I never know if it will bloom or not. But when it flowers, the few blossoms that appear are worth the years of no bloom that come before.

5 comments to Is Gardening Too Complicated?

  • Gardening is simple. Add compost to your soil, pick plants that grow well in your area (be sure to check sun vs shade and final size) and then try them. (If you’re not sure about plants find a local garden center and tell them that you have a sunny, shady or partly location and you want something about x high.) Mulch, water occasionally the first year and then hold your breath all winter to see if it survived. If it dies try something else.

    As you said, if you want to do the research and learn all about your conditions, great. You’re likely to have more successes unless you’re like me and it leads to things like pushing zones and buying things that no one else in the area is planting. I take failure as part and parcel of gardening.

    I would much rather regret plants I tried and failed at than regret not trying anything.

    Good post!

  • So true! As a new gardener I’ve had nothing but mistakes and failures, but then a caryopteris bloomed and I thought I was the best gardener ever. A river birch shot up and an itea turned scarlet and I was suddenly the most effective landscape designer around. It only takes one or two successes to completely overwhelm all the failures.

  • Pam

    It may sound too simple to say, but plants want to grow. We just have to know when to help them and when to leave them alone. And we learn that by multifaceted endeavors, including trial and error and reading wonderful blogs like yours, C.L. (And in response to your comment, it’s a joy to know you’re there!)

  • Yes, yes, yes. I too would much rather try plants and fail than not plant at all. And yes, it takes just one fantastic plant to wipe everything else out, and thankfully, plants often succeed against all odds.

  • […] blunders in regard to plant choice and placement continue the conversation about successes and failures in the garden sparked by Seth Godin the other day. Seth, Diana, […]