In the early years of living in our little white house, I bought a book on English Cottage Gardening. It was filled to bursting with luscious photos of cottages all  but dripping with roses, surrounded by lush gardens overflowing with blooms.

I wasn’t one to have difficulty making friends with a dream and this particular one was highly alluring. I mean, who wouldn’t want the life that those photos seemed to suggest?

It didn’t take much to get me off and running.

The Dream

I might not have been able to have a thatch-covered cottage deep in the English countryside, but I saw no reason why I shouldn’t have a wall of flowers.

So off I marched to the local Home Depot to buy heavy duty trellising, lumber, exterior enamel, and fasteners. My Dad, a retired contractor with the bevy of tools you’d expect, helped us get them mounted.

I had a book on growing roses organically and pored over that to find just the right selection. In my mind, the scent of roses and honeysuckle was already wafting in through open windows on a summer evening. I rested in the sure conviction that there could be no happier combination.

Was it pretty? The answer to that is a resounding yes!

It was pretty enough that the city tax assessor left his phone number with my husband, along with the request that I call him with the cultivar names.

(In case you’re curious, the rose was ‘Rosarium Uetersen’ from the House of Kordes and the honeysuckle goes by the moniker of Lonicera periclymenum ‘Serotina’.)

So what could possibly be the problem?

The Reality

Well, to keep the rose looking nice after that first flush of bloom in June and to encourage rebloom, it needed to be deadheaded. (That just means clipping off flower heads that are past their prime.) And it’s not a once-and-done kind of process; you need to be at it regularly and often.

Now, keeping the spent flower heads clipped from a modest-sized shrub rose could conceivably be a pleasant and undemanding task.

But teetering eight feet above the ground on a ladder propped against a barricade of thorns it was just a bit much for an admittedly maintenance-challenged gardener.

And without deadheading, lavish sprays of pink roses cascading down the trellis were followed by lingering balls of dead, brown petals – a far cry from their former glory.

Not so pretty.

The Takeaways

There are a few things to keep in mind to avoid this type of disappointment.

  • Know yourself and respect your limitations. It’s okay not to be the kind of person who wants to spend hours working in your garden. You just have to know that and plan accordingly. (Personally, I’d rather smell the roses than deadhead them.)
  • When you feel yourself champing at the bit to pursue a vision, pause. Take stock. Remember that something may look breath-takingly gorgeous for a few weeks, but you’re going to be seeing it all year. Plan accordingly.
  • If possible, see what the flowers you’re considering look like (and smell like) in real life. Visit in different seasons. Talk to someone who’s actually growing them to see what maintenance is involved to keep them looking nice.

Patience and thoughtfulness at the outset will save you a lot of wasted effort and resources down the road.

So now it’s your turn.

Have you ever planted a dream, only to be disappointed by reality? If you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear your story!

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