A Gardener's Notebook

My garden is no place for perfectionists

Special to The CambrianJanuary 21, 2013 

I’m sitting in my favorite chair on this clear, winter morning, a cup of coffee at my side and a Burpee catalog on my lap. It’s a perfect morning to both embrace and be grateful for life’s abundance, and to regard my imperfect self, particularly in gardening endeavors.

I’ve made the same gardening resolutions for the last 20 years. Sometimes I’m able to take baby steps to improve. At the same time, new issues distract me from my “less than worn path” to perfection. “Perfect,” in nature, is beyond reach. And, as in all things in life, it seems to work out just fine.

I am a passionate gardener and a bit sporadic. I normally let one section of the garden go, while I work on another. I had to let the entire landscape “rest” a bit this year and change my attitude on perfectionism. I got realistic about how much lettuce we could eat and how few tomatoes we could actually grow. I staggered planting, and planted less. Cool summer weather made harvesting tomatoes an “uninspired” event. Some apples ended up in the compost bin because I lacked time to preserve them. How much applesauce can one eat anyway?

To achieve even near-perfection in the things I do, I’ll have to learn to take on less and except few challenges. “Do less” will be my motto. Or perhaps I’ll just “NOT do it.” For instance, there are the hens. I jumped into backyard “chicken wrangling” five years ago. We raised six chicks to be layers. The “mean chick” was given away, and a couple died of unknown causes. The remaining “ladies” still lay two to three times a week and we’re grateful. Perhaps in the spring we’ll add a few pretty young “chicks” to our flock.

Then there is the labradoodle project. We took two young Australian labradoodles from a breeder in return for letting her breed and raise two litters from each. Sounded easy at the time. Then we became too attached to the doodles to hand them over for whelping. We partnered with the breeder to become co-owners and raise the puppies in our Cambria home. Once again, I allowed enthusiasm to lead the way. But what an experience! What joy! After months of hard work we’re exhausted, and the garden could be described as “less than perfect.”

As I grow older, I’m allowing perfectionism to occupy less importance in the garden. I remind myself that some of my favorite parts of my garden occurred by “pure accident” and, in some ways, are considered to be the best. Perhaps, this year, I’ll let seeds “fall where they may.”

Now, where was that colorful catalogue I was perusing? Oh dear! Everything in it looks so perfect!

Tip of the month

Spider webs can be annoying in the garden but it’s important to leave them in place as long as possible, especially in the winter. Spiders are major players in a balanced garden and will continue to devour pests in foliage and flowers throughout the seasons. Webs on the tips of lavender blooms are home to hundreds of beneficial arachnids. Having retired from perfectionism, “I’ll leave them be,” and enjoy the sparkling dewy drops that hang from the webs each morning.

Lee Oliphant’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at cambriagardener@charter.net; read her blog at central coastgardening.com.

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