Sometimes I ask myself if my efforts in the garden are worth it.

Feelings of Inadequacy

The siren song of inadequacy sometimes beckons.

I’ll look at photos in design books and magazines or visit an estate-turned-park . . . all the images that shape our cultural expectations.

And then I look at my own poor, little garden. And I sometimes want to despair.

I don’t have a staff. I don’t have gobs of money to pour into it. If I’m honest, I don’t even like some of the work that gardening entails. (Dealing with weeds in any kind of prompt fashion being the most notable example.)

While I’ve hit upon a style of gardening that’s very forgiving (stick mostly with natives that are vigorous enough to mostly out-compete other stuff), I’d be lying if I tried to depict my gardens as tailored-looking in any way.

They’re like me.

Do I know how to “clean up” and present a polished image? Sure. But that’s special occasion me. That’s not who I am – or indeed, who I want to be – every day.

My gardens have a ragamuffin charm.

But as if worrying about looks isn’t enough, other times, I read about ecological challenges – plants or animals in decline because of habitat loss or fragmentation.

Then I look at my little yard with its trees and flowers – one little island in an ocean of standard suburban yards – and I wonder . . . what have I really achieved here? What difference have I made? And does any of it even matter?

Can you relate at all to any of this? (Fingers crossed that you can!)

Measuring Results

I suppose, like so many things, deciding what’s been achieved depends on the scale you use when you measure the results.

Here’s what I look at when I start wondering whether quitting is the course of wisdom.

From the standpoint of someone who loves the big, wild world of nature, I’ve achieved something if you’re:

  • a bumblebee making a nest in the cavity of a red oak’s trunk
  • the chipmunk living under the boulder behind which my compost pile hides
  • a yellow butterfly sipping nectar from wild sunflowers
  • one of the baby bunnies nestled into the leaf litter in a patch of blackberries, blending so perfectly with the colors of the garden floor that you’re all but invisible unless you move
  • the vixen padding through in search of prey to nourish your litter of kits
  • the catbird parents with a nest deep in a tangle of shrubbery
  • the little garter snake slithering through the foundation garden to shelter in the shade behind the front steps on a hot summer day
  • one of the bright yellow goldfinches contentedly eating seeds from the patch of wild bergamot outside my office window

I’ve given you a place to be at home.

And because love for these things has lived in me through the whole of my memory, I’ve provided a home for my own heart and spirit at the same time.

Considering Potential

All that being said, I still worry sometimes that my aforementioned imperfections as a gardener will put some people off. And maybe they do!

But then I think that surely there are other people like me: people who want to enjoy flowers and trees and the whole seasonal pageant of wildlife that visits them.

And who’d rather do this from a comfortable deck chair than via hours spent weeding, pruning into artificial “perfection,” and edging. (Aren’t we all busy enough as it is?)

All of the animals I mentioned above – and more – have spent time in my garden. Some are regular residents, some are occasional visitors.

From the time I was a little girl, I’ve wanted my own “bee-loud glade” and I’ve got it.

And I love that!

At the same time, I wonder:

What if there were more gardens like mine? Lots more?

What if they became more the norm than the exception?

Monarch butterflies still face many challenges. However, they are benefiting from the gardeners who’ve added milkweed, goldenrods, asters, and other wild flowers to their yards.

How many other species will benefit as more people garden with conservation in mind? (That in so doing, we also get to conserve our own time and energy is a very compelling bonus, at least in my mind!)

What would happen if there were enough of us to create a living chain of regionally-inspired, “wild” gardens stretching from town to city to city to town, north and south and east and west – not because anybody told us to create it, but because we wanted to and saw the good in it?

I wonder . . .

Well, that’s all from me for the moment, but before I say ‘bye for now, I’d love to hear from you!

If you’re already gardening, what keeps you going? If you’re not gardening yet, what holds you back?