With Time In The Garden Comes Patience

By Mary Ellen Ellis | July 3, 2021
Image by amenic181
by Mary Ellen Ellis
July 3, 2021

I have always been drawn to plants, the outdoors, and gardens. As a young gardener, as young as five years old, I struggled with impatience. Even as an adult and as I became a more serious gardener, I wanted results fast. Now, with decades under my belt, I have finally come to appreciate the value of patience.

I Want a Perfect Garden Now

If you watch a new subdivision or other development rise from the ground, you can come away with the idea that a garden can be created out of nothing and in a matter of days. The big landscaping trucks come in and put in shrubs and small trees, even perennials. It’s an instant garden. 

That kind of gardening isn’t gardening, of course. It’s landscaping. Gardening is the work of building an outdoor space over years, not days. This was a tough lesson for me to learn as a gardener. 

When I had my first house with a yard, I went into overdrive planning and trying to put in a quick garden. It didn’t go so well. My husband and I worked ourselves ragged and were too sore to do anything on day number two.

Several areas of the garden failed in different ways that year. Primarily, the issue was putting in too many plants too close to each other in my rush to have a “finished” garden. The perennials crowded each other into submission and many developed some fungal diseases.

Learning the Value of Patience and the Ongoing Garden

I’d like to say that it was by the second year that I learned to be more patient, but it took time. Over a few years, I began to realize that a garden is never done. It’s an ongoing project and it can always be improved. I learned some important lessons from gardening this way: 

  • Focusing on one bed or area per year is a great way to garden. It allows me to tend to and develop, not quite perfect, a small space at a time as I work toward a greater plan for the entire space. 
  • The joy of gardening is less in the finished product than in the process and the daily tasks. 
  • I don’t actually want my garden to be “done.” Then I wouldn’t be able to enjoy digging in the dirt, making my space more beautiful every day and every year. 
  • Patience only improves a garden, while efforts to hurry it up cause harm. After cramming in boxwood shrubs to create a border, they declined by year three. We tried again and gave the shrubs space. Five years later the shrubs filled in the spaces on their own and we have a healthy, solid border. 
  • Being patient is more cost effective. I budget a little bit every year to put in something new, to buy seeds or a new tool. 

Patient is a virtue indeed, and nowhere is that more true than in the garden. It’s a lesson worth learning while evolving into a better gardener.

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