I’m pleased to bring you a bit of gardening wisdom from 1935, from the book Four Hedges: A Gardener’s Chronicle by Clare Leighton.
The picture I’ve chosen to go with this wisdom is just a random, pretty picture of some flowers in my garden on a spring day.
Here’s the wisdom:
“We are apt to get very jealous at the way other people’s gardens always bloom so much earlier and more abundantly. In the same way, we resent it when we find that our garden lacks so many flowers that other people have. But this is stupid of us.”
Oh, Clare, you are exactly right about that. Who was it that said, “Comparison is the thief of joy?” (Theodore Roosevelt is who said it.)
Even in 1935, Clare knew that comparison of what one has to what others have is stupid!
“For it is in the gradual building up of a new garden that most pleasure is to be found. However pleasant it may be to step into an old established garden and watch the flowering of mature plants, nothing can equal the stimulation of the first years of struggle.”
I’ll summarize that by saying it’s the process, the journey, not the final destination! Of course, many of us, myself included, like to grow our gardens to the point we can put down our shovels, step back for a minute, announce “Finished!” and then enjoy what we have. But after a brief rest, we are ready to pick up that shovel and start making a few changes here and there.
Clare goes on.
“I know a woman who had a marvelous herbaceous border. It looked exactly like the outside cover of a seed catalog. I was filled with envy. “How long have you had this garden?” I asked. “It must have been years and years and years.” She boasted to me that this was her first summer. I was amazed and envious of her skill. But I learnt later from some neighbors that she had put the entire place into the hands of a landscape gardener who had imported earth, plants and all. Suddenly I felt sorry for her; she had known so little of the joys of gardening, for she had not had to fight. She had never raised seeds and watched the first green shoots thrust themselves up through the earth.”
What would Clare think about today’s gardeners on social media who show up in their gardens in full make-up, a fancy blouse, clean jeans, and then begin to pot up a planter, as though that’s how they look when they are “gardening.” Cut away to the finished container, which looks perfect, and our gardener has nary a smudge of dirt on her jeans, and her hands are clean too.
I digress a bit but I’ll wrap this post up with a final quote or two from Clare Leighton, circa 1935.
“We should never take our gardens too seriously.”
Okay, at the risk of a long post getting longer, here’s the rest of that entire paragraph, which is worth reading and taking to heart before you step into your garden in the new year.
“We should never take our gardens too seriously. It is hard to curb ourselves in this if we have any love for our plants, even as it is difficult to walk around the garden without pulling up weeds. But too professional an attitude is apt to give us the same taut, strained feeling that comes into the faces and lives of all specialists. It is better to have a few weeds and untidy edges to our flower beds, and to enjoy our gardens, than to allow ourselves to be dominated by it. To be able occasionally to shut our eyes to weeds is a great art. Let us relax in our gardens, and as a dear old countrywoman used to say, let us “poddle” in them. We waste else the very beauty for which we have worked.”
I am now tempted to make “poddle” my word of the year. Yes, it is in the Oxford English dictionary.
And when I ignore weeds I’m practicing great art! Thank you for that thought, Clare.
Footnote 1, with more information on what is already a longer than usual post. I bought Four Hedges by Clare Leighton in 2013, according to the invoice I stuck inside it. No, I don’t know what prompted me to do that. The reason I was reading it today was because it was organized month by month. Though the author started in April, I skipped ahead to January and look at the wisdom I discovered!
Footnote 2, there is a reprint of Four Hedges available, published in 2010 with an introduction by Carol Klein, on both Amazon and Bookshop. You can also find used copies of the original book published in 1935 on Bookfinder.com.
Footnote 3, Clare was primarily known as an artist who did woodblock carving prints and she illustrated this book with many of them. Her bio indicates she was born in Great Britain but moved to the United States in the mid 1940s.
Footnote 4, finally, just because I can, I made a graphic with my favorite quote from the book, so far. Feel free to use it.
Done. Until February when I read what Clare wrote that month.
Thanks for reading to the end!