Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gardening Limitation #6: Knowledge

While perusing many beautiful garden blogs & articles, I began to contemplate what would be required to transform my garden into one of these amazing showcases.  And this led, naturally, to my determining what obstacles stood between me and my vision.

This was followed by the creation of my Eight Gardening Limitations which I hope to share with everyone over several widespread postings.  They will be listed backwards from the one having the least impact on my personal gardening plans to the one having the greatest (8 = least limiting, 1= most limiting).

Previously posted:
Gardening Limitation #8: Environment
Gardening Limitation #7: Proximity

Gardening Limitation #6: Knowledge

So much to know, so little time, such a small brain.

What is that plant?  Will it grow here?  What about there?  Apparently, most of the plants I bought prefer to grow in the neighbor's yard.  Except for dandelions - those are all mine.

Is there a difference between dappled sun and dappled shade?  Part sun and part shade?  Those seem somewhat synonymous to me.  I think I can at least tell the difference between full sun and full shade - but not too sure about all those gradients in between.

Soil preparation?  The weeds are thriving so it must be really good, right?

And what is it with seeds.  The first year, I tried casting them to the winds.  On the second year, I raked 'em into the dirt.  I poked holes in the ground the third year.  Finally, last year, I roughed 'em up first.  And now you're telling me that all this time I was supposed to be planting them in a different season?

What is that strange fuzzy growth on my plant?  At first I thought it was kinda cool - then the leaves turned yellow and fell off.  Now I'm thinking less of it.  Especially now that it's also on that other plant over there...and over there too.

Have you seen all those tiny bugs hiding on the underside of my leaves?  Some are green, some white, some have pretty colors.  Good guys?  Bad guys?  I nudged one with my finger and now there are blisters on it (on my finger, not the bug).  Then again, it might have come from that triple-leafed ivy that I pulled up yesterday.  Itches too.

And what is this garden design element I keep hearing about?  Sounds somehow mysterious and mystical.  I think I may have recognized it in other people's gardens - did it have something to do with the gnomes?  Not sure if it has a place in my garden.

It can be a bit intimidating at times.

Ok - it can be incredibly, vastly intimidating pretty much all the damn time.  Every time I read another gardener's blog or tour another person's garden, I recognize how much I don't know.  That wide chasm of ignorance can appear so impossible to span that many a gardener simply throws in the trowel.

One must enter the garden with the insight that not everyone knows everything.  And that in your effort to create, you will be progressing through a learning process.  Very few sit down for the first time and paint a masterpiece.  Gardening is a series of visions, followed by attempts, then by re-evaluation - repeated over and over again.  On a living canvas that is influenced not only by the gardener, but by nature itself.

Gardening requires making mistakes.  The gardener must acknowledge & appreciate what has worked for them, recognize & progress through what has not.  Every planting is an experiment - a chance to try something new.  An opportunity to learn.

I recently overheard an employee at a nursery informing a customer new to gardening not to worry about losing a few plants: "If you're not killing some plants, then you're not growing as a gardener."  That actually made me feel a little better (though I also thought it was a good philosophy for a nursery to preach if it wanted to stay in business).

Fortunately, knowledge can be obtained.  Certainly being able to pull the needed information immediately from one's mind makes things much easier.  But it is but a small hindrance as one can gather the needed information if one invests the time and effort.  And one must be willing to recognize that even with all the data gathered and applied, gardening is still primarily advanced through trial and error.

A lack of knowledge may limit how quickly your garden achieves your vision, but it can only stop one from moving towards that goal if the gardener gives up.

(Next up: Gardening Limitation #5: Artistry)


  1. "Gardening is a series of visions, followed by attempts, then by re-evaluation - repeated over and over again. On a living canvas that is influenced not only by the gardener, but by nature itself."

    Well said, and AMEN!

  2. A lot of truth on your post. There is so much yet to know.
    Thanks for doing this Gardening Limitation series, i am enjoying it very much.

  3. I read your post for tips and advice! Are you telling me I've been lead by the blind all this time? ;-)

  4. Gardening is like learning a foreign language. A few words. Hey I can say a whole sentence in ... Then you can read in the new language, and just the odd word trips you up. I knew German was my second language when I started dreaming in German. As with the language, once you are fluent - then - you move on to poetry and creativity. Start again at the bottom and climb up, step by step.

  5. Whimsical: And nature certainly knows how to throw a curve ball now and then!

    fer: Glad you are enjoying them.

    Anonymous: Well, if you're looking to learn from other's mistakes, then you've come to the right place!

    Elephant: Great comparison - a garden as poetry, I like it.

  6. Working with nature via my garden and the land has been one of the most exciting adventures of my life. Your post is so inspiring and right on the mark . . . beautifully written too. I love the photo of the trees! Gorgeous! ;>)

  7. I'm enjoying your musings, R. Trial and error is the best teacher, but having a community of fellow gardeners (as we do) really helps too, doesn't it?

  8. Carol: Thanks - pretty much my whole backyard is under large oak trees - thus the "shady".

    Pam: Sure does! During the last few months, my whole gardening viewpoint has been "growing" since I began participating in the Austin Garden Blogger's group.

  9. I don`t see how you could have put any of what you said better. Thank You!