Sunday Opinion: Sometimes its Good to Give Up

I think of myself as a focused and self disciplined individual.  I make a sincere effort to be organized.  I am a” deal with it within twenty-four hours” girl.  I try to follow a thought along, even if it is one layer under the day’s business, as long as it takes, to get that thought in a form that energizes me enough to speak, or draw. For me doing a design doesn’t stop with the drawing.  A design needs explanation, supporting photographs or other material, a time frame, a plan to stage the installation.  It has taken me fifteen years to install the landscape on my lot.5; why wouldn’t I address staging with everyone else? 

 Walking through the store in the am, on my way to my office, I can spot 15 things that need cleaning, weeding, straightening, grooming, levelling, vignetting, attention-and water.  I can spot a plant that needs water when my eyes are closed. I can as well spot from yards away a plant whose green leaves have gone dusty from lack of water.  I call this focused;  Buck calls this obsessed.  I about fainted with shock and surprise the first time he casually suggested it might be better for me all around, if I could realize that sometimes it’s good to give up.  Let things go that don’t deserve your energy.  Sure, be in charge, put your name to your work, think everything through, do the best you can.  But most of all, give up when it’s time-good things can come of giving up.  Other outcomes can be good.

I am sponsoring a tour of gardens of my design in one week, July 19, to benefit the Greening of Detroit.  They have been planting trees, sponsoring urban gardens, teaching people to plant and grow to feed their families, and sell at the Eastern Market in Detroit, for the past 20 years. They impressed me.   Last year we raised 10,000.00 for them; I am very proud of this.  But today I am seeing that my own garden, which is on tour, is two weeks behind a normal season.  There will be no Limelight hydrangeas in bloom, and my pots are not the best, given the cool weather.  I see weeds, fungus, unfinished areas-and I am the person who ventured in last Sunday’s opinion post to suggest there is no World Series of Gardening.  Talk is cheap, is it not?? 

The entire impetus for this post is a pair of fabulous Italian pots on pedestals, on my terrace,  planted identically.  Both pots are coming along fine, albeit slowly-except for the centerpiece plant.  The nicotiana mutabilis in the north pot has spiked, and is blooming.  The southern nicotiana mutabilis is in stall mode.  For three days I have been agonizing over replacing that recaltricant nicotiana.  Given Buck’s commentary, I think I will stand pat with the two pots that do not match.  Do these two glaringly unmatched pots say everything  about when it is good to give in, and give up?  Do they not speak reams to what every gardener aims for, and does not get?  Buck  says not one gardener on the tour will fail to recognize that in spite of  my efforts,  our efforts, I am not really in charge.  He thinks I should leave it be.  I think he may be right.  Better the garden be real, than engineered like a stage set.

No matter how enchanted I am with a design, my relationship with my client comes first.  My ideas are just my ideas.  Not the be all and end all.  Great designs depend on a solid relationship between me , and my client -and whatever shakes out from there.   Giving in is not necessarily a gesture of defeat.  Giving in can be a recognition of the other party;  a resolution not anticipated.  Giving in can be a way of letting go of issues that have no resolution, for better or for worse.  Giving in is sometimes a striking move; amazingly, things can be better for it.  I have landscapes in which the big idea came from the client that work just fine. My two unmatched pots which will be going on tour-they are charming me.


  1. I appreciate your thoughts on this matter. I think you are right, the client is a very important part of the design process. At times, it may be frustrating when they don’t see the vision we have for their gardens, but it is really an achievement when a garden turns out beautiful even after much compromising. It also refines us as designers and keeps us humble.

    As far as the garden tour, I’m all for the garden being real as opposed to being staged. There is beauty in imperfection. Great job, by the way, on organizing such a successful garden tour. I have been thinking I should try to organize something similar, so that is encouraging!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  2. Gardens and pots are like families and children; sometimes everything functions well and is picture perfect while sometimes a pot or child (and often an adult) is a bit askew. Ever take a close look at pictures of family get togethers? We all have had times when we didn’t “match” but we still charmed the rest of the family.
    PS: Dust will wait!

  3. Deborah Silver says

    Thank you both so much for your comments. They encourage me so much to keep writing! Deborah

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