What was that commercial jingle when I was a kid?
"Curlers in your hair! Shame on you!" Seems to me it was for a Dippity-Do ad or some such thing? Well, it might not be for curlers in your hair, but we usually experience shame at some point in our life. Sometimes it is over important things and sometimes it is over the ridiculous.
The other day, I happened across a 'tweet' referencing "garden shame". Now what is garden shame? Webster's says it is (excerpts):
a: a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety
b: a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute
c: something that brings censure or reproach
Now, how on earth could anything like that be coupled with the endeavor of gardening or the garden itself?! Yikes! In my humble opinion, if something is growing in the garden, it is a miracle, a thing of beauty in and of itself. I sensed from what I read in this tweet, the garden shame arose from a comparison of garden appearances i.e. my garden doesn't look like Martha Stewart's or P. Allen Smith's garden or maybe even a neighbors. Doesn't that seem an unfair comparison?
As I sit here, I ask myself a few questions: Should I feel shame because my garden does not look like someone else's garden? No! My garden is a reflection of me. Am I to feel shame about myself? No! Am I a work in progress? Yes! Is my garden a work in progress? Yes! Do I have a professional gardener on staff? No! Do I have loads of time to sweep my garden clean of dirt creating an impeccable space? No! Would I, Me, Myself really want to? No! (because as we know, I like being dirty!)
If my garden were perfect, why would I need to learn, try, grow, reorganize, experiment? Where would be the fun? The "growing" experience? It may be an overused and much maligned cliche' but gardening is a journey, not a destination. If your garden becomes "perfect", seriously, you need to start over!
We are not all born to our mothers to know instinctively which plants harmonize in regards to color, texture, growing requirements, etc. nor have we all been able to obtain esteemed degrees in horticulture or design. BUT, we all CAN learn by educating ourselves through various means to become competent, if not proficient, at doing those things! Would you get to interact with other gardeners (hello tweeters!), spend billions of dollars on books, read magazines when we should be working, reorder plants to fill the bare spots made by the plants we killed or spend countless hours learning, sharing, and enjoying? Besides, design and what is pleasing to the eye can be quite subjective, opinions varying from person to person (the only person you HAVE to listen to is the city inspector if you let your grass get too high and then his opinion counts unless you want to be fined). What looks good to me may not appeal to anyone else. I like that Cereus giganteus (saguaro cactus) next to the Louisiana Iris' ! Not really but you get the picture : )
In addition, consider when you began to trod the path towards becoming a gardener. Did you learn from your grandma when you where knee-high to a grasshopper or did you begin late in life? Are you a Jedi Master Gardener with the "Force" being with you or are you more like Larry, Curly and Mo when it comes to natural ability? Janet Carson who has degrees in horticulture and has been doing it all of her adult life is farther ahead in experience and understanding than I am. Although I have "green genes", my DNA didn't make itself known until I was 28 which was 18 years ago and I still come up with hideous plant combos and plants that inexplicably die. I dare you to ask me about "the Chocolate Garden".
So, if you are having problems with garden shame, don't. Do not waste your time, energy and precious brain cells, save it for something that deserves that kind of angst and self-recrimination. Love the garden you have and garden the way you love. Gardening hopefully brings joy, provides helpful therapy and an outlet for expression, not shame. But if you are affected and suffer some shame, it might help to follow a good 12 step program, here I'll get you started:
Step One: I do not really make plants grow, God does. And we know God does not make shameful gardens. Repeat after me: I feel no shame.
Speaking of which, the only garden in which shame was an integral part and understandably so, was one named Eden. And it wasn't because the plants didn't look as good as those in the neighbor's garden (soooo, maybe they didn't have neighbors yet). Who wants to keep up with the Joneses anyway? All it gets you is a bad-ass recession!Just to show you I do not feel shame about my garden even when I am neglectful of it and it doesn't look like the New York Botanical Garden, I posted a photo of my shrub up top. Yep! It is a 'Juniperus 'Andora Compacta' (purple bronze at this time of year). Can you tell? I just happened to not weed the bermuda grass that kept comingu up in it the entire summer and it looks p-r-e-t-t-y nasty! But hey! Life happens and it wasn't a priority at the time but the fact it survived being taken over by the "devil weed" is a miracle! And THAT, my friends, is beautiful! While I am at it? Although I make every attempt to garden as organically as possible, I have another true confession: I use halsulfuron on my nutsedge, prudently, but I do.
And I say . . . I feel no shame!
Your garden is yours. Comparison only creates envy and that kind of green doesn't grow, it only destroys. So enjoy your own garden without abandon and do your best with what you have. It is enough.
And repeat after me . . .