Sunday Opinion: The Promise

My life as a professional gardener is very much different than my home gardening life.  When I am at home gardening, I can stop every hour for an iced tea, or go take a nap, if I so desire.  I can make messes that have lifespans. I can leave a pile of sod in the driveway that I need to steer around for weeks.  I can leave a dead tree long enough for it to become a snag.  Once I finally take it down, that empty space might sit and stew for a year; it is my privilege to live with that tooth missing. I can throw around the French word deshabille with authority.

I can skip the fall cleanup; I can let everything lay in the spring and call it a composting day.  5 years running I can look at a clump of daffodils no longer blooming and resolve once again to divide them, and move on.  I can ignore the faded flowers on the rhododendrons long enough that the new growth breaks-shoot.  I can order five pounds of alyssum seed, and save instead of sow it.  I can trip over a brick that has heaved up in the walk every day long enough to be irritated, but never long enough to reset it. I can leave a perennial in its pot, in the spot where I want to plant it, until it perishes from lack of water.  I can leave my tools out, and scattered about, until they dull, rust and splinter-and call it my as yet uncollected vintage collection.

I can rip the leaves off the dandelions, and stuff the flowers in my pocket.  I can leave my roses unpruned-experimentally.  Unplanted cell packs and 4 inch pots of annuals strewn all over the deck in May- I can call that process. I can put my pruners away, in favor of that natural look. Or I can saw everything down to the ground, and call it revitalization. I can advise Buck to consider a new parking place on the street when a maple in the tree lawn is obviously hollow and punk-wooded.  I can count on the new growth of the sweet autumn clematis to cover the tangled mess of last year’s dead stems. 

I can walk by a weed until it falls over into my path. I can step over that fallen weed for a long time thereafter.  I can let colonies of weeds run amok, and put edges to their spread-as if that meant something.  I can walk up hill, and then down hill, and unexpectedly step into a corgi digout-and call that exercise good for me.  I can persist in my unwillingness to get rid of that Russian sage hedge-as no doubt it will be better next year. I can make a note to come back and reassess on a day and a time yet to be determined.

A new fence that needs to be installed in my fountain garden-this is a given.  It has been a given for an embarrassingly long time. On those days I need to blame, I blame the need for a permit for my delay.  Any gardener dealing with a self imposed delay understands this; any blip on the screen will do.  My work schedule is always good for an extended delay.  I work 7 days a week, and have done so for better than twenty years.  This said, no one is questioning me or faulting me about my propensity to delay on my home turf.  My delay days-I permit myself a less than perfect, a less than organized, home gardening life.  

It may be that the best I that I deliver to my clients is not the design, but the promise to help them treat their garden differently than I treat my own.


  1. Love this post!

  2. How fecund a garden is your mind, Deborah; thank you for letting us observe your process once again.

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