I’m one of those people who follows rules, usually arbitrary and unnecessary ones I’ve made up out of whole cloth, and sets stupidly high expectations for myself. Its dumb and probably rooted in those AP and Honors courses and the drive to be considered successful. Oh the Gen X angst of it all! But I digress, this is a post about gardening, not stereotypical generational hang-ups.
The Dry Garden was the first garden I designed. I put ideas to paper, researched plants and famous gardens and thought I knew what I wanted and what it would all look like. A great deal of effort, research, and time went into all of it. Six years on, I’d say I was about 60% successful with my execution and 90% successful with plant selection. This realization felt a lot like failure if I’m being honest, even if so many of the plants have performed beautifully.
Why didn’t the plantings mesh better together? Why didn’t certain areas fill in the way they should have? Why does it feel like a hodgepodge of plants rather than a rambling, informal garden? Why did all these happy plants look so… meh? Where did I go wrong?
I spent much of the winter re-configuring the space to match how we use it, maximize bed size, and streamline the flow of traffic through it. Its a complete overhaul of the space, though the plan is to keep 100%(ish) of the plants.
Spending much of January, February, and March fixating on the space and the plans and the logistics of making such a huge change, you cannot possibly imagine my delight at watching Gardener’s World (S2022, Ep 5 and 7) and having Monty confess to wanting/needing to do an overhaul and redesign of his own Dry Garden. There were literal shouts. Ask my husband.
Talk about being granted permission! Permission to assess your past work and find it lacking, but without shame or implication of inadequacy. Permission to make big, sweeping changes without any condemnation of your past work or ideas. Sometimes the best laid plans just don’t come together. Sometimes plants don’t do what they ought to, what you were planning on.
Rather than assigning value or meeting some arbitrary notion of success, it is far better to treat all of it as a series of teachable moments. Opportunities to assess your work, learn from mistakes, do something differently, make improvements. Make it better.
I’m excited to show you these changes and admit to all of my well-intentioned ideas that just didn’t work. Brutal honesty and zero judgement is the goal at Box and Bay going forward. I hope you all follow suit and grant yourself permission to change up what isn’t working without shame or angst.
Onwards and upwards!
3 thoughts on “Permission to change.”
The type of experience you describe is exactly what makes a novice gardener into an intermediate gardener, and an intermediate (somehow I don’t think that’s quite the word I want) gardener into a master gardener. “Tweaking” (aka editing) a garden bed is now my favorite part of gardening. Complete renovation is exhausting at the removal stage, and exciting at the replanting stage. It’s like falling in love all over again. Really, a garden is never finished. I suppose landscaping can be “installed” and then the landscaper considers it finished, but there is always something to change, improve, expand, or contract in a garden.
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Sherry Schantz Altoona
Yes! I’m currently re-imagining a perennial bed that’s now 3 years old, and “meh”. I, too will keep all of the plants that survived/thrived and will get creative with the empty spaces.
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