On Gardening

As the time in the garden spent doing chores and maintenance slides slowly downhill, room opens in an obsessive mind for wandering. Doors of what could be, what might be possible are opened with free floating randomness.

The Vision becomes a shape shifter, for with each passing hour new ideas replace previous images of what the perfect garden for this bit of terrrain might look like.

Magazine photos, hard cover books, words of description written by those talented gardeners from long ago and yes, of course, blogs play games of musical chairs inside the miasma of the mind. Which flashbulb will fire at which moment to embed the thought that will become the next project is up to the fates.

That is how the Fairegarden came to be, this particular incarnation on this particular plot in this particular latitude and longitude that shows on a GPS device. Static it is not, for a garden is a living organism, affected by millions of events, from insect and bird activity pollinating and planting seeds to the whims of the weather gods striking down previous plantings with drought or cold.

Enter the human hand, driven by a compulsion to remake the scenery in order to fit a picture that emerges when eyelids close. It is sculpting with spade, shovel and pickaxe. It is the laying of paint with seeds, cuttings, root divisions and pots of purchases. It is editing with the removal of unwanteds, failure to thrives and just plain mistakes.


Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and now a decade have passed since a freshly cleared and wall to wall mulched slope began to receive the first offerings. The Noah’s Ark that was brought from the previous Fairegarden in Texas was placed inground following the pattern of sketches made and remade while waiting for the land to be cleared and terraced by heavy machines and strong backed men.

The largest growing things went in first, so they could begin the long road to maturity both above and below. Lines of living privacy were drawn around the perimeter, providing the sense of enclosure that is lacking in an inner city subdivision. Paths and stairways came next to provide access for working and perusing. A water feature was located taking advantage of the natural slope and within sight and hearing from inside the house and the planned patio area.

After trees and hardscape came the shrubs and large perennials, groundcovers and bulbs. These are the plantings that have been arranged, rearranged, torn out and massed as time has passed.

Time. One word. There are many other things that go into the creation of a garden, that place unique to all others, but all pales before the ongoing unstoppable force of change brought about by the passage of time.

The point, dear readers, is to encourage the striving, the planning, the learning, the study of every square inch of earth to see what can be gleaned to be put to use in the creation of the vision of your dreams. It is a journey, not a destination. There is no end to it, it can never be finished but it can be improved. It is neither a race nor a contest to be won. It is personal, as different for each individual as their thumbprint. And so we leave you with this thought: Onward.


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25 Responses to On Gardening

  1. You have a beautiful garden!…the reward for all the dreaming, planning and doing. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Hi Karin, thanks so much. I was hoping to inspire some dreaming and planning as winter tightens its grip on us, to help us get through the longest nights until gardening can be done again.

  2. joey says:

    A beautiful post and the journey so true, dear Frances.

    Thanks, Joey, my friend. It is the season to reflect and gardening is such a joyful part of our lives. πŸ™‚

  3. Carol says:

    Yes, onward!

    And onward we shall go, and onward we shall go, heigh hoe the garden-o… πŸ™‚

  4. Tatyana says:

    Wonderful images of your garden and encouraging words. Thank you Frances! Love the last picture especially, it’s for me:Think, Tatyana, before doing!

    Thanks so much, Tatyana. Sometimes we gardeners need some encouraging words. And Think can be applied to everyone! πŸ™‚

  5. One doesn’t even have to THINK about why we do what we do when seeing the photos. Thanks for the journey, F.

    P.S. love to THINK in the light!

    Hi Helen, thanks so much. That Think sign is one of the most favorite bits of art in the garden. It gets featured a lot. That just happened to be where the twig star lights are placed too, so they can be seen from the lazyboy. πŸ™‚

  6. Les says:

    Gardening is indeed a process, one that does not end, and unlike the painter or sculptor the gardener can never say “I’m finished”.

    Hi Les, thanks for visiting and adding your thoughts. No, it will never be finished as long as I am still breathing. πŸ™‚

  7. Inspiring! Sometimes I feel like I haven’t changed anything, but then I do as you have done, peruse the old photos and just marvel at how much has changed. I agree with you, that a garden should never be finished or done. That’s why it’s so enjoyable to visit the same garden again and again, whether it’s a public garden, the garden of a friend, or one’s own.

    Thanks MMD. Having old photos is a great way to compare. I really had to search for the old one, a pre-digital hardcopy tucked away in a cupboard. Wish there were more before shots. Let that be a lessson if a new garden is ever started. Take lots of before shots, even if they aren’t pretty. Change is the keyword with a garden, and a gardener! πŸ™‚

  8. James Golden says:

    Agreed. Frances, I’m with you on this one. (Wish I could borrow your hillside.)

    Hi James, thank you so much. I envy your wonderful, moist space! The grass is always greener… πŸ™‚

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It is such fun to watch your garden grow and change with the whims.

    Why thank you Lisa, what a nice thing to say! I am hoping to inspire the same sort of onward thinking in others by showing how puny my garden looked in the beginning. πŸ™‚

  10. Garden Walk Garden Talk says:

    I love how time has a hand in the garden, both with nature and again in shaping the gardener. Time also plays in individual perception and action, which as you have shown with older photos, just keeps getting and better. I always admired your garden sign. More people in this world should just stop and think.

    Hi Donna, thanks so much for adding to the conversation here. Time moves ever onward and we with it. When I saw the Think sign in Florida, there were others, it jumped into my arms to come live here. πŸ™‚

  11. gail says:

    Dear Frances, Just what I needed today~lovely photos and inspiring words~I loved when you said “Static it is not, for a garden is a living organism, affected by millions of events…”
    So very true and we are just one of the hands that go into creating a garden…and it appears that the winter gods are going to be visiting our gardens this week! What surprises await us next spring! xxoogail

    Dear Gail, thanks, I am so glad you were cheered by this story. Winter has settled here for a bit it seems, let us hope he decides to move on before too long. I need the exercize in the garden! xxxooo

  12. Wonderful Frances. I always say if your garden is finished, you are not a gardener (which is fine with a lot of people). We moved in 27 years ago. I wish I had photos of my garden’s journey, but though an avid gardener, I was young and practicing law then. What a missed opportunity! Carolyn

    Thanks Carolyn. How fortunate you are to have lived in one place for so long. I have started and left many gardens. We also didn’t think to take many before shots in the days before the instant gratification of digital cameras. Unless there were people in them, it wasn’t worth the cost of developing and waiting for them. But the garden grows and changes every day, that’s the way I like it. πŸ™‚

  13. One says:

    Thanks for this post. Sometimes I get a little disheartened comparing my garden with yours and many others. Well, like you said, it takes time and it is a journey not a destination. So, I shall enjoy my journey, daydream and improve on my garden bit by bit…

    Thanks, One. That is exactly the response I was hoping to stir. I would hate to think that people are discouraged when they see my garden, rather I mean to inspire them. The sad little plunked plantings on the hillside are a reminder to all that a garden is a process and nothing can take the place of time to help things grow, human and plant. Do enjoy your journey, and take lots of photos! πŸ™‚

  14. Darla says:

    How beautiful are your gardens in every season Ms. Frances. I should put half the effort of thought into my gardens as you do yours. The second photo looks like Angel Hair amongst the Iris blades, nice.

    Hi Darla, thanks so much, so nice to see you. No one should work as hard as I do in their gardens, unless they have the time and want to do so. It is the labor of love for me and I am lucky enough to have the luxury of time, if not the energy of my youth. That Stipa/Nasella is fantastic at that blooming stage. The blades are blackberry lily, very similar to iris. πŸ™‚

  15. Onward indeed! Each of us with our own dreams, visions, gifts and limitations. People often talk about the journey being more important than the destination. While the “destination” is important in a garden, that striving for a “better” place, for me it is the doing and the dreaming, the planning and re-planning, the failures and successes that are important. At any point in time there will be areas in my own small garden that delight me and others that, well, do not! I’d hate to ever feel I was “done”, I think it would mean I had stopped learning and growing.

    Hi Janet thanks for adding your thoughts here. You have pinpointed the exact idea that I was trying to suggest. My own garden has those not so pleasing areas as well, plenty of them. They just don’t get featured much on the blog because I feel the readers want to see the pretty stuff, but sometimes we do a warts and all shot to show the reality. The older I get, the more important the journey becomes, in every way. πŸ™‚

  16. chen says:

    Your last paragraph includes probably some of the most thoughtful and valuable statements I have read in garden blogs. You should plan to publish all these valuable thoughts and info from your blogs in a book. Love how you use the maples over the rocks.

    Hi Chen, what a compliment you have given me, thank you very much! The maples over the pond are starting to meet the vision, only ten years in the making and many a wrong cut with the pruners. I have looked into publishing some of the blog posts to save for my kids and grandkids, so far nothing has been affordable or what I was looking for. In the meantime, they are on the internet for everyone to see, for free. I am glad you enjoyed the story. πŸ™‚

  17. Pam/Digging says:

    “Onward through the fog!” is one of my favorite sayings, so I’m with you here, Frances. I love how the light bulb of inspiration fires from time to time to inspire a new project.

    Thanks Pam, what a fun saying! I bet your kids do the famous eye roll that only teenagers can pull off when you say it. HA You are living the dream of creating a new garden from scratch at your new place. I envy that beginning. Perhaps I will get the chance to begin anew someday as well. πŸ™‚

  18. Eileen says:

    Inspiring post Frances! You have inspired me to go out into my snow draped garden, look at the bones and dream about chores for the spring.


    Thanks Eileen, that is exactly the intent! Be sure and take notes, write it down, so you don’t forget. Even if you never do it, just having that spark of an idea written down helps keep it alive, and also helps get one through the winter doldrums. πŸ™‚

  19. Your garden, photography and thoughts of cultivation are all together a unique masterpiece! Lovely post Frances.

    Thank you dear Carol. I appreciate your kind words. Glad you liked this story. πŸ™‚

  20. easygardener says:

    Onward indeed. Winter is an ideal time for all that dreaming and planning – no gardening to interfere with all those gardening thoughts πŸ™‚

    Hi EG, thanks. You are so right, we have a lot more free time to let our minds wander the untried paths when not work work working in the garden. πŸ™‚

  21. Gardening like this is a massive project!


    Hi Esther, thanks. That was the point I was trying to get across, gardens take years, decades, a lifetime and are still never finished. That is what makes them fun. πŸ™‚

  22. Rose says:

    Frances, your vision, your creativity, and your eloquence never fail to amaze me. You are such an inspiration! Your garden, as evidenced by these photos, is so beautiful, yet it is encouraging to me to know that perfection, if there is such a thing, takes time and perhaps is not really the goal after all. I’m enjoying the journey, and that is all that matters.

    Dear Rose, thank you for those kind words. Your support means a great deal to me. There is truly no such thing as a perfect garden, for it is constantly changing. Striving is the more important attribute, looking at the same space in a new way is the most rewarding thing of all. πŸ™‚

  23. Beautifully written dear Francis. Of all the beautiful photos, I love the light show which says “think.” If only humans did a bit of that on a regular basis, we could make so many beautiful things.

    Thank you, Dee my friend. I really liked that image as well. The Think sign is a good reminder to do just that. πŸ™‚

  24. Lynn Bay says:

    You brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart! What a wonderful article and I have enjoyed tweeting it to all of my followers so they can enjoy it! This is what all true gardeners strive for.

    Hi Lynn, thanks and welcome. And thank you for the tweets. This post was one I enjoyed writing, I am so glad you enjoyed it too. πŸ™‚

  25. Leigh says:

    What gorgeous photos! Dreamy. And what an inspiration. It’s so good to keep photos of the journey and the arrival! Thank you. Leigh

    Hi Leigh, thanks so much and welcome. I wish there were more before photos from the early days, but it was before we owned a digital camera. That makes such a difference, when you have to take film to be developed and pay for each copy. Digital is a whole new world of record keeping! πŸ™‚

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