July 8th, 2006
Meandering Down the Garden Path

photo: Zanthan Gardens
In my garden, I’m not on a mission.

I’ve been mulling over a question posed by Stuart Robinson at Gardening For Dummies: what are my gardening goals?

I let the question simmer in my mind while I mowed the grass, pulled weeds, and dead-headed the flowers. Although I am a very goal-oriented person in most aspects of my life, when it comes to my garden, this question had me stymied.

I realized that I don’t have any goals for the garden, except the short term goal of surviving another summer in Austin. In fact, survival seems to be foremost in my mind whenever I do anything in the garden. It colors my plant choices, the times of year I buy and plant, and my decisions about having a vegetable garden this year, letting parts of the lawn die, or putting in new beds. The development of my garden is ruled by this one constraint: will it survive? If not, why bother?

A goal implies a finished product, an end-result. It’s probably obvious to anyone visiting my garden that I have no real plan. Conventional wisdom is that you can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going. In the garden, I’m going nowhere; I’m just meandering down the garden path. That’s fine by me. I’m more interested in process than end-results. Gardening is about the journey, not the destination.

For me garden is a verb rather than a noun. I garden to give myself space to think and because I enjoy observing the rhythm of the seasons. Gardening is a form of meditation. Few people visit my garden; it’s not a showplace or a place for entertaining or even a place to sit back and relax in. I find it impossible to si. a moment in the garden. In fact, the one place I have to sit is so little used that it has disintegrated and been overgrown with flowers.

by M Sinclair Stevens

3 Responses to post “Meandering Down the Garden Path”

  1. From M2 (Austin):

    That’s a beautiful, expressive image of what your garden is. You should frame that picture. In fact, I want that picture. It will be my portrait of you.

  2. From Annie in Austin:

    I like the chair, too. You do express yourself beautifully, M, and now it’s my turn to ponder. Somehow gardening goals isn’t the right term for what I’m doing, but it isn’t all process, either – possibly because we’ve moved a few times. Since 1993 you’ve been in one place, while this is the 3rd garden for me in that time frame. Time to think about it.

  3. From Mrs. G:

    “I realized that I don’t have any goals for the garden, except the short term goal of surviving another summer in Austin”

    You wrote what I realize has been a guiding principle of my gardens over the years…what can survive a southeastern Georgia summer? Featuring: the heat…the humidity…the big bugs…

    I feel much more relaxed now that I know I’m not the only one (as if we ever are, but sometimes it can seem that way!)

    I have to laugh (at myself, mostly) because we just installed new Adirondacks…and this morning, I thought seriously about parking in home & enjoying this freakish cool morning weather we’ve been having…sipping my coffee…reading the paper…and I just kept on going with my watering bucket, trying to beat the sun and the cut-off time for no outdoor watering…

    but…I plan on making a point of sitting there at least once a week, forcing myself to be still long enough to enjoy all of our hard work…

    (I’ll admit this only once…as my husband & I sat in our new chairs this past Sunday morning, I was mentally planning where to put a couple of slow growing evergreen shrubs to make the space feel more like a sanctuary…and then there are…well, there is always more…)