The Grass Is Always Greener… Or Is It?

By Nikki Tilley | April 15, 2021
Image by rvbox
by Nikki Tilley
April 15, 2021

As a gardener for well over 25 years, I pride myself on being knowledgeable and well adept at growing a thriving garden patch. Imagine my surprise to learn that this doesn’t happen as much as I’d like. In fact, as I look around at many other gardens, I can’t help but question my gardening abilities. Why is it that my neighbor’s vegetable garden seems to look so much better than mine, for example? How is it that my veggies fail while everyone else has lush produce?

They say “the grass is always greener on the other side” but is it really?

Chasing the Perfect Garden

I get compliments all the time from friends, family and neighbors on my pretty gardens. I take pictures and post my prized plants for all to see. Yet, as I look around at other gardens, I still feel envious, especially when flipping through magazines or seeing magnificent gardens online. I find myself secretly wishing for a garden like those – perfect in every way. And then I snap back into reality.

The perfect garden doesn’t exist. I don’t care how beautiful it may appear, there is always something that goes wrong. You just don’t see that. No one dares post pictures of their failing garden, other than when asking for help. Flip through magazine, surf the web. Where are these imperfections? The truth about gardening, and what the experts don’t tell you, is that you’re not always going to have a perfect garden like those you envy. Not unless you have the time and resources to put into them – and the average person doesn’t. Life happens and things get overlooked.

My garden may appear beautiful to some, but not to me. It’s a mirage. Yes, it’s planned and everything has its place and purpose, but seldom does it work out the way I hope. This is why it’s everchanging. What you see is what I want you to see. What you don’t see, next to that prize-winning rose or that breathtaking lily flower, is the pitiful looking plant next to it that’s riddled with holes. You don’t see the tomatoes decimated by hornworms, the failing squash or non-existent cucumbers. You see what we want you to see. And every garden, no matter how grand its appearance, has its flaws. Mine has many! 

So, yes, while envious of the more picturesque gardens, I know the truth. Things aren’t always green on the other side of the garden. Behind every immaculate flower, within every vegetable garden, there lies the carefully hidden skeletonized plant targeted by Japanese beetles. There’s that unkempt area taken over by chickweed or unpruned vines. The withered container plantings that forgot to get watered. The worm-infested kale stripped of its foliage or the malformed carrots growing nearby. No one wants to see these things, right? Well, I think it should be seen. Maybe instead of hiding garden flaws, we should embrace them, proudly sharing our photographic garden failures with others. I’m tired of trying to measure up to those majestic looking gardens found in magazines, or even down the block. 

No garden is perfect. We all experience failures, regardless of how long we’ve been doing it. Each year brings uncertainty, from weather to pests to forgetfulness or lack of time. It’s okay to envy someone else’s garden success and want to improve your own, but just remember that it’s also okay to fail sometimes.

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