Sunday Opinion II What Not to Do

Sometimes a sense of what not to do in a garden can be as valuable as a sense of what would be good to go ahead with.  Up front, I would say I like all manner of gardens; I have only seen a few I did not like.  I think talent is local-not geographically confined to New York, Paris, Milan, and Los Angeles.  I see very talented people, making incredibly interesting things everywhere I go.   I have my dark moments, but I try to limit the time I spend on those. I certainly don’t want to devote too much space here to the no word.   But some things I avoid, when I can.

The World Series of Gardening:  Though the English would try to convince you of such,  given the years, time, and effort they have spent throwing the Chelsea Garden Show, there is no such thing as a Landscape and Gardening World Series.  The World Series applies to baseball, nothing else.   Once you garden for what someone else might love, or gasp about,  plan on your resentment to rise accordingly. Who wants to be admired for something you planned to elicit approval? Be true to your own ideas.   Gardening is about a stew of self expression and science, seasoned by nature.  Someone once told me the definition of an expert is someone brought in from out of town at great expense.  No kidding.  Trust your instincts and imagination, as long as you do no harm. Don’t put off getting help, if you need it.  I most admire individual and genuine expression-no matter what form that takes.  No one else’s expression threatens yours, period.

Don’t worry your garden.  I subscribe to the notion that most plants have an incredibly strong will to live. I try to let them be, as much as possible.  I enrich the soil with compost, I plant properly, I water: I make sure the soil is fertile.  Then I try to stand back, and appreciate what is miraculous about the natural world.  I don’t dust, sweep, polish, wash or straighten up, to excess.  Nature doesn’t need a whole lot of intervention from me-she’s been at the business of life many millions of years.

Don’t ignore the big picture.   Anyone who caretakes a piece of land,  is gardener-like it, or not.  A title to a piece of land,  is a piece of paper which is mostly about human community, and nothing about the stewardship of the earth we are so lucky to have.  Take care of what is entrusted to you-its a responsibility.  Keep your property up-this is appreciated by all your neighbors.  The weather applies equally to everyone-what are you thinking, planting tropical annuals in advance of warmer soil temperatures?  Tune in to the natural rhythm of things-don’t insist on your agenda.  I regret the big numbers of beautifully grown plants killed by too early, or too late a planting.

 There are so many great products available to gardeners; but there are people who misuse that science. Read the directions.  More may not be better.  Be caring;  think before you apply.

Most of all, don’t fail to understand that this planet is occupied by tens upon thousands of living things-all equally important.  Your voice is one of many.  Most true gardeners I meet understand this.


  1. “Gardening is about a stew of self expression and science, seasoned by nature.” — great line!

  2. “…don’t fail to understand that this planet is occupied by tens upon thousands of living things-all equally important.”

    So well-said: the little citizens of the garden deserve our care, too. These pictures opened my eyes to that:

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