Why I continue to fail as a gardener.

My poor tomato seeds. I’ve forgotten you in your soak for a bit too long and you decided you couldn’t wait for me any longer. I guess I won’t be saving these seeds for spring. Seed starting and saving has always been an experiment in trial and error for me. My first experience with seedlings indoors years ago resulted in spindly, weak sprouts that couldn’t even hold their head up because I didn’t offer them enough light. Oftentimes I forget to water them and can lose an entire batch to extreme drought. Over the years I have dropped them, scorched them, frozen them and simply abandoned them.  Some, however, do make it into the ground outside and go on to flourish.

Houseplants are also another sad story.  I have had very few for a while, but I’ve started collecting more. I have tried pushing the boundaries of light requirements only to be rewarded with leaf drop, spindly growth and gradual demise. I have forgotten that running the heat means that even though my plants on the floor are still well hydrated, the one above my head has been living in a desert for the past week.

At work I love creating containers for clients. The bolder the better, mixing textures and colors. I love challenging myself to work with different styles and color combinations. I love creating containers on a theme like the Fire & Ice Challenge in Fine Gardening a couple seasons ago or literary themed containers that honor writers from Shakespeare to Philip K. Dick. Sometimes they work, like the Fire & Ice Container and sometimes, as in the case of my Bladerunner inspired container (sorry no photo but imagine astelia, princess flower and dark, dark, ipomoea all in a stainless steel container), I’m the only one that gets it. But most people are surprised to find out that I have few containers at my home each season. Planting containers is quick and easy for me. Maintaining them… well it’s not something I’m perfectly suited for as a gardener. It gets hot in the summer, I get busy doing other things and after three days of extreme heat I remember the container on the porch. We won’t get into the many 6 packs I’ve purchased over the years intending to plant them the following weekend only to compost them a month later, OK?

Every spring I read blogs of beginning gardeners bemoaning their failures in seed starting or veggie planting. I hear clients complain that they just can’t figure orchids out so they don’t buy them or that roses are too difficult to prune so they avoid them altogether. And within almost a blink of an eye, they become non-gardeners. Well I have to admit that although failure isn’t my favorite part of gardening, it’s PART of gardening. There is no escaping it. If one wants to grow in anything they do, one has to take risks. Sometimes those risks involve challenging what we know. Sometimes it means we bite off more than we can chew. If we constantly stay within our comfort zones, we will never evolve. One only has to look to nature to see that change is always necessary.

Growing as a gardener means learning as much about ourselves as it does our plants. What we can do. And what we can do better at. Because of all my experimentation over the years I can start cuttings, I can get my orchids to rebloom, I can start a vegetable garden from teeny, tiny seeds each spring. I also have extensive knowledge of what is truly drought tolerant in my area because if it can thrive in my yard, it sometimes has to be. For every leap I’ve taken in my growth as a gardener, there has been a list of failures along the way. If I had let them stop me, I wouldn’t be the gardener that I am today. Every failure, every challenge has forced me to learn more, do more, try harder. There is no magic pill that makes one a great gardener overnight. Great gardeners are made by their experience and some of that experience is failure. Will I continue to fail as a gardener? I can only hope so.

[edited because not only do I continue to fail as a gardener, I apparently continue to fail at spelling too. 🙂 ]

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