Some People Excel at Gardening and Some Don’t: Which Type Are You?

The gardening season officially begins on January 1st and ends on December 31st.

Marie Huston

a hilarious image of a woman working in her garden although the scene is covered by snowPerhaps you’re a “garden evangelist” as Carol Michel describes herself.

If that’s the case, you might agree with Josephine Nuese, who wrote “Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year. For gardening begins in January with the dream.”

If this is you, you know that you don’t do it for the exercise, or to increase the value of your property, and for that matter, the word “hobby” is not a very suitable term for a way of being that you would never wish to have any other way!

On the other hand, maybe you don’t have the time.

Maybe you just don’t have the time to do all you would wish to take on according to your vision of a garden. What can you do that’s “green” with the time you’d have available? Be realistic, be modest, but be inspired! And start something . . .

Maybe you don’t quite have the know-how.

The plants don’t know that! Things can flourish or die on you even if you have a degree in horticulture or work at a botanic garden. It helps to know, but knowledge alone doesn’t guarantee you’ll get what you want! Successes and failures will come both due to and despite your knowledge.

A century ago, astronomer Percival Lowell wrote, “Imagination is as vital to any advance in science as learning and precision are essential for starting points. Let me warn you to beware of two opposite errors: of letting your imagination soar unballasted by facts, but on the other hand, of shackling it so solidly that it loses all incentive to rise.”

Consider this if you’re a novice: There are some things in life you must know a lot about. How did you learn them? Could you find yourself a “green thumb” mentor? Or just start out with a trip to the library? Or YouTube?

an abundant image of flowers, fruits, and vegetables including beautiful red cherries, grapes, melons, celery, and a bundle of asparagus
Fruit, Flowers, and Vegetables
Joséphine Bowes, around 1860-74

Maybe you’ve quit before but you’re resolving to try it this year.

(If so, get a nudge from Jan Riggenbach. She lists some reasons, and they’re good ones!)

Maybe you don’t have the money.

Well, maybe you didn’t choose the right parents!! After all, how your family starts you out has a great influence on your wealth as an adult. If you don’t at least have an emergency fund, then I agree: you need to work more and save some before pursuing any hobbies. But could a bouquet of flowers make a thoughtful gift? Could a single plant of zucchini become a gift that “keeps on giving?” Everyone knows: At least until the first frost!

Maybe you don’t have the patience.

Gardening DOES shape your relationship to time, doesn’t it? Almost everything happens on nature’s scale, and you can’t control the weather. All you can do is accept what blows in.

The Chinese proverb says, “Patience is power; with time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.” It’s true: what do silkworms eat? How is silk fabric made? Ralph Emerson had a similar perspective: “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” And Isaac Newton will certainly encourage you when he reveals, “If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention than to any other talent.”

image of a patio with rocker and potted plants
Garden with Rocking Chair, date unknown
Pere Torné Esquius (1879-1936)

Maybe you don’t have the space.

Having land–perhaps an estate–is the basis for the usual vision we associate with the word “garden.” Once you can afford that territory, you might call it “Eden,” the natural companion to “garden.” But isn’t it possible to do worthwhile things with a small city plot, or even the balcony of an apartment or condominium? Or just a windowsill?

If you were to do a little “worthwhile thing” somewhere people can see it, have you considered what kind of pleasure you could spread for neighbors and people who pass by? You could even inspire someone else to follow the example you set. Now wouldn’t that be a dreadful development for the neighborhood?

a beautiful image of palm trees in a lush, green setting by Monet
Garden in Bordighera, Impression of Morning
Claude Monet (1884)

Maybe you can’t do what you want in your climate.

Almost anything is possible, but then there is what’s just not realistic: raising cacti in the Everglades and having a lawn in Death Valley! If Destiny Hagest can show how you can grow food year-round where she is, you can too. People in places like Pennsylvania and Colorado are overwintering palm trees in enclosures they build in November. People have grown fig trees in Michigan by throwing a blanket over them and bending the branches to the ground. What used to be limits have been stretched surprisingly far by ingenuity. Although there still are limiting factors, especially pertaining to rainfall and climate, the internet allows you to self-educate and connect with other people who question what is possible.

Maybe you don’t like getting dirty.

Hey, gloves for that!

Why not try hydroponics? Or the closest forms that resemble it, growing tropical orchids, bromeliads, and cacti?

Second, maybe some experience can change your mind about that!

So, to consider the topic, if you want to give this a try, what puts you off? If you love to do it, what’s the reward that makes it satisfying? If you have something to be proud about, go ahead and brag! But then what do you think will be your greatest challenge this year?

What’s the greatest lesson the previous year taught you?

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