My garden is a reflection of every mistake I've ever made. You wouldn't know it to look at it, but it's true. Most people come to my home and are immediately impressed by the garden in particular, which encompasses lush, blooming beds, rose-covered arches, winding pathways, flea market finds, an outdoor kitchen & fireplace, mounted mirrors, and a drive-through portico. The hydrangea bushes that wrap around the porch, coupled with the Sally Holmes roses winding their way through the white-picket fence put on an amazing show throughout the spring and summer, and they alone are enough to stop passersby on a daily basis.
"Your garden is beautiful!" (Why, thank you.)
What they don't see are the MANY plants that have failed to thrive, the ones that were decimated by deer or disease, and anything that's struggled to gain a foothold.
Because I'm ruthless. I give a plant no more than a few seasons to perform, often moving it from one spot to another that offers more sun - or less - and then if it still fails to respond, I yank it out and replace it with something that's proven to be more successful. And so it goes until I'm fairly happy with the mix of foundation plants and perennials, and can then move onto the next anemic bed. In short, my garden is a never-ending opportunity to PROBLEM SOLVE (and I'm a gal that likes a solution).
Interestingly enough, what's happy in one section of the garden, may die in another, even if it's just a few feet away. Whether it's gophers chewing on the roots or the pH balance of the soil, our gardens consist of several micro climates depending on how the house shades the lot, where the sun shines brightest, how the water drains, and neighboring trees that can wreck havoc. (Uhh, could you do something about your GIANT shedding trees please?)
Lest you think I know what I'm talking about, my garden education is primarily based on trial and error. I experiment and fail, try again and fail, try again and make progress and at last, succeed, AND then I happily take the credit, not admitting that it took awhile to make things right. The truth is, I am continually refining the garden in pursuit of perfection, knowing that it's unattainable, but giving it my best nonetheless. As my business is Real Estate, I consider my home my calling card. If I can't create beauty in my own surroundings, how do I help you visualize your space and what might work well for you?
But gardens are also a metaphor for life. Plants grow, plants dies, plants struggle, and then suddenly they take root and surprise you with unbelievable beauty; it's all one giant mystery (kinda like raising kids). If you give the garden some love, it will reward you in spades (or in roses). Ignore it, and it dies. Through it all, successful results are primarily about our intention, about our actions, and about the evolution . . . (Meaning that if you are rooted in the problem, it's hard to move into solution.)
AND aren't we all in the process of evolution, ESPECIALLY now in a world that's less certain by the day? (If we're not, we should be.) The important thing is to make some space in order to expand and grow . . . That's where the magic actually happens!
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.