How life’s guide steers your gardening path

winter Irving-3 1-10 Winter months present northern gardeners with ample opportunities to slow down and reflect, and in doing so I began to wonder how a quote I live by has guided my gardening path.

This thought was sparked by one of the blogs I try to visit regularly.  At first glance you might think BIKE WITH JACKIE is about bicycling, but it’s not.  Jackie writes about finding inner strength and turning obstacles into opportunities.  In a recent post, Quotes to live by, she asked readers to list a favorite quote they refer to when times or events get tough.  Her favorite , by Margaret Thatcher, inspired Jackie to write a list of good, uplifting thoughts to consider when needing a self-confidence boost – but you’ll have to visit BIKE WITH JACKIE to read these.

I had no problem coming up with a quote in response to Jackie’s request.  It’s from one of my favorite writers, Anna Quindlen.  In her book, Black and Blue Quindlen writes, “The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.”  I read this book years ago, but this one line hit home so deeply with me that I have it written in an easily referred to place … and I do refer to it often.  This quote has helped guide me through so many life events.  It certainly pertains to my life-long desire to immerse myself in learning about plants and gardening, and most recently helped me decide to pursue certification in landscape design. Translation: your current trade doesn’t need to be your only trade.

Extending this line of thinking towards more tangible, daily garden-related affairs, I realized just how often I apply the mantra ‘If it doesn’t work, FIX IT!’ which, in essence, is the same message as Quindlen’s above. Here’s some examples:

The lawn you have need not be made only of grass.  When grass would not grow at in more shady areas of the lawn, but moss did, guess which won.  The variety of mosses that have replaced previously seeded grass is much more interesting and much less labor intensive than lawn grass could ever be.

If deer like the plants you’ve planted, plant those the deer don’t like.  I refuse to look at munched, unattractive shrubbery and plants, and can’t come up with the bucks to fence deer out completely.  So where they roam, I plant things they don’t particularly like – foxglove, lamb’s ear, anemone, peony, Siberian iris, thyme, low-growing sedum, astilbe, campanula, sage, lady’s mantle, globe thistle, and narcissus to name a few.  Then I give winter protection to any evergreens I want to keep unmunched.  Yes, deer might nibble a little on some of these unprotected plants in early spring, but this I can live with.

anemone 8-09 sedum 10-2009 thyme-2 11-2009

The vegetable garden need not be the only place tomato or pepper, or lettuce plants grow.  When the fenced in vegetable beds no longer offered ample growing space, containers filled in.  When the vole population grew incrementally after a mild winter and voraciously ate the roots of nearly everything planted in the vegetable beds, I planted veggies in large plastic pots sunk into the soil.  When we constructed a fenced in area elsewhere, I interspersed edibles with perennials to further thwart the voles.

Of course, this line of thought also explains why a pink dogwood tree had two homes before I finally opted to leave it planted in its current location.  Why an Endless Summer hydrangea spent a full summer potted on the deck and a full winter healed into a fallow veggie garden bed, before it found a permanent home next to a lace-cap cousin.  Why a globe-shaped boxwood became the center focus of a circular stone-walled planting bed after its twin succumbed to winter and could no longer balance the other side of the steps where the pair originally resided.  Why I rearrange so many perennials in the spring and fall to try and fix what ever it was about their current location that just didn’t make it.

I know, as a gardener, I am not alone in these actions, but other gardeners must use other guiding quotes.  So what’s your quote?  What mantra or words of wisdom guide your life, and how do your gardens reflect its message?

12 comments for “How life’s guide steers your gardening path

  1. January 22, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Oh, my goodness, this is beautiful! And it made me think of this line: The grass you have now is not the only grass you’ll ever have. That’s because the grass I have now is dead. It’ll grow back in the spring. Thanks for reminding me that even plants get do-overs! And I’m honored to have inspired you. That was fun. I’ll pass this link on, as you have passed mine. Thank you!

  2. joenesgarden
    January 22, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks, Jackie. You have some very inspiring posts on your blog. I enjoy following along.

  3. January 22, 2010 at 6:43 pm


    A very thought provoking post. I think my favorite ‘life’ quote is by Winston Churchill…”We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

    And my favorite gardening quote is by Thomas Jefferson…”Though an old man I am but a young gardener.” That one helps me realize that failures in the garden are inevitable and as long as I’m learning from them I am growing as a gardener.

  4. joenesgarden
    January 22, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    I like them both, Debbie. Too bad TJ is not around to participate in GOOPs!

  5. JP
    January 25, 2010 at 9:43 am

    I really like your post, it’s very thoughtful. I always have this haiku in the back of my head by Matsuo Basho (mid 1600’s, Japan) :
    “Not knowing the name of the tree, I stood in the flood of its sweet smell”
    I can derive lots of meanings from these words depending on the situation. There’s way too much to know, but you don’t have to know it at all to enjoy it deeply.

  6. January 25, 2010 at 9:52 am

    This is lovely, Joene. And I love Debbie’s quotes. This is all very inspiring.

    Barb (fellow FLXer)

  7. joenesgarden
    January 25, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    What a lovely haiku, JP. I can ponder on this one for hours. Thanks.

  8. joenesgarden
    January 25, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    I’m glad you stopped by, Barb.

  9. January 28, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Well said!

  10. January 28, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Very well said – Gloria

  11. January 30, 2010 at 11:22 am

    I enjoyed reading this. The quotes are good advice. As I’m still learning, my garden is all very experimental and subject to change at whim.

  12. joenesgarden
    January 30, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks, Kate. We are all still learning … life would be horrible if we knew all the answers.

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