Friday, January 7, 2011

Waiting for the Garden

I'm trying diligently to follow some sage garden advice of my own, but there will soon come a time, I'm sure, when my desires intersect with the greater flow of Time through the Universe, and I'll step in, prematurely as usual. That advice, for gardeners of all ilks and manners, is to WAIT, just wait, for the Garden to tell you what to do.  It is a simple enough concept, but there are some depths to the wisdom, and in fact, the advice applies to our garden activities in two vastly different ways:

First, it is a way to tell myself that when the Kansas winds are howling, and the garden is changing rapidly from 55F highs (as yesterday) to 12F highs (predicted for 3 days from now), it is certainly not the time to get ahead on spring garden chores.  I have a number of things I'd like to be doing in the garden, of which a partial list might be:

1.  Dormant spray on the fruit trees.
2.  Replace the corner post of the electric fence around the vegetable garden.
3.  Prune the Ramblers and tie up the new canes.
4.  Trim off the ornamental grasses and move some of them.
5.  Set the foundation pole for the new Purple Martin house.
6.  Prune the grape vines and remove dead Blackberry canes.

I know that I could bundle up in 16 layers of clothes and do these chores now at 23F in a brisk north wind, risking that the cement around the post freezes before it cures.  Or, I could hold off and do them all in a single glorious late-February day when the thermometer touches 70F and the sun is shining. And they still won't be late. In reality, I'm sure my winter-starved soul will break down sometime in early February and I'll hustle out and scurry around with numbed fingers and chapped lips for a few afternoons.

The other, deeper, way to look at the advice of "waiting on the Garden to tell us what to do" is related to finding the best designs for our gardens.  Instead of feeling the need to do something grand this year and arbitrarily imposing your will upon the garden, maybe it would be best to wait and listen for your garden to tell you what it needs.  Does your garden need a new frame for a distant scene?  Do you hear it whispering that  there should be a water feature in the corner, there, by the tree?  Is the path from the door screaming for brick pavers because the old concrete walk is decaying looks out of place?  Gardens will tell you all this, and more, if you just listen to the whispers that come from the earth and the trees and the flowers. 

Of course, alternatively, you could just plant some hidden microphones around and then arrange for other gardeners to tour your garden.  The opinions of others might be harsher but may be clearer than the ramblings of a viburnum hedge.


  1. Hey, Prof;
    Popped over to say hello and to thank so very much for the follow. The fact that you only have 6 things on your list shows impressive restraint. My gardens are buried around about 6 feet of snow but I 'know' almost every flower that's sleeping under there and I'm busying myself making a massive list of companion plants. Plus fountains, new fences and la dee dah. If it keeps us sane in January, let's do it. :)

  2. Fascinating how Mid Western gardens tell their owners when it is time and North Eastern gardens take orders from humans.

  3. The timing of this post couldn't be better for me. Upstate NY just got another 7 inches of snow and I recently read a book on edible landscaping which has got me pondering moving a clematis on a trellis and trying cherry tomatoes there. Not a huge project, but something different to try and fun to think about until May/June when it could really be done. Plus, I get to put a jackmani clem some place where it will be more appreciated by me. I think it wants that, hehe. Jane

  4. Yeah! I've learned way more by waiting and listening, than by reading books, making lists and leaping into the fray from impatience, blind enthusiasm or sheer seasonal desperation. In our crazy culture, the skill of abiding until action is clear is always a challenge to acquire. I fear, with the advent of instant information constantly increasing, people have even less chance of ever developing patience and the knowledge that right timing comes from listening very quietly, within and without and sometimes for a very long time.

  5. Hello Jimmy, I feel just as you do. I am now in my early 70s and still gardening with help.I wonder if you read my post in "Winter Gardening" My name is LuSeal-dummy name- really Lucille and I write just for a little Garden club newsletter. I wrote about How to Garden if you want to do it as you are older. Read it, and tell me what you think. I am coming back to this spot tomorrow morning and then I will read about you. We are in the midst of a wonderful snowstorm and I must go to bed as I love to get up early and move around in the early morning snow. Actually it, still will be snowing. Lucille


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