Make your own garden mistakes

I was shuffling through Google Reader* this morning checking on all my favorite blogs (the iPad and a cup of coffee in bed are pretty much the best accompaniments to blog reading) and one of my favorite design blogs was talking about gardening. I love when that happens. This great designer (who shall remain nameless) is making a garden for her family. I think that is fantastic and from the little bit she mentioned about it, it sounds like it's going to be beautiful.

And then she mentioned that she's planning on lining all the beds in oregano. She's working with a friend who designs garden so maybe he knows more than I do about gardening in her area. But what I know about oregano is that it's a lot like mint in that it can be a total hog. They say once you have oregano you always have oregano, unless you plant it in a pot.

Lots and lots and lots of oregano. Herb Gardening photo

So I debated for a minute about posting a comment with a small warning about oregano. I mean, it would be sad to see a beautiful garden get unmanageable within a few years because it turned into an oregano factory.

And then I decided not to. Partly that's because I don't want to ever come across as a know-it-all. I don't know it all. In fact in the world of gardening I suspect I actually know very little (this is part of the reason I love gardening so much: there is always more to learn). Also, she didn't exactly ask for opinions on it. It's different if someone outright asks you for an opinion. But the other reason I didn't want to send up a warning flare is that I think gardening is one of those areas where you have to learn from your own mistakes.

Oh sure, people can warn you and provide advice, but sometimes you just need to learn your own lessons through trial and error. In other words, you made your bed of oregano and now you need to lie in it.

There are lessons I learned that my mother and countless other gardeners warned me about. "Don't buy one of everything, buy lots of a few things," my mom said. But that's not what I did, is it? Nope, I had a veritable collector's garden going on out there, which is OK if you're truly a collector, but not attractive if you want a pretty garden. I bet it took me four years to figure that out.

"Even though it tolerates shade, you can't plant that oakleaf hydrangea in shade and expect it to bloom much," I was told. Well guess what I did anyway? I don't know if I thought that maybe I was special and that the laws of horticulture did not apply to me, but I planted that oakleaf hydrangea in  full-on shade. Twice (I took it back to the nursery under warranty after the first year when it outright died).

"Artemesia is a spreader," I'd heard. Oh pee-shaw, my formerly cocky gardening self thought. It won't be for me!  Mmmm hmmmm. This is how that turned out.

Having made those mistakes (and countless others) I will not try those things again. In fact, I'm a better gardener for having made those mistakes.

That's why sometimes, when you see someone making a gardening mistake, it's better to just let them make it.

*Apparently Google Reader is going away in a few months. A lot of you follow me through a Google Reader subscription. To make sure you keep getting posts, you can subscribe via email at that link on the right above. In the meantime, I'm trying out some Google Reader alternatives and I'll let you know if I find one I like. 


  1. I love this post....and oh my it does spread nicely. This reminds me of when I was a little girl. I had a lovely first garden around age 9 . Just flowers. Then my siblings had a basketball hoop installed nearby. We had to move the garden. We transplanted to a tiny circular grade. The wild violets spread like wildfire! My poor dad (80 years old) still has violets growing in the lawn. Everywhere.

    1. I always cringe when I go to a plant sale where people have divided their own plants for the sale and there are pots full of violets! OK, that's one gardening mistake I won't let someone make ... I'd definitely tell someone not to buy them.

  2. I understand, but I DO wish someone had told me about parsley! It's taken over everything. Thank goodness I didn't plant it in our vegetable garden. It's a chore to tear it out--every year I think I got it all, and here it is, back again. It reminds me of violets--impossible to get rid of! Lovely post.

    1. Peggy ... I couldn't have warned you if you had asked. I had no idea that parsley could get naughty in the garden. Violets, on the other hand, well those are just weeds with a pretty name in my world.

  3. Love this post! I'm just starting a garden at our new house. I know I will make many mistakes but sometimes that's the fun of it! :)

  4. Okay, so I didn't know that about oregano. Thanks for the warning. I've planted it in the row of herbs in my veggie patch - we'll see what happens. I won't take it out though - like you, advice is not always taken.

    Isn't the fun of gardening discovering what works and what doesn't? Mostly my garden doesn't work. Of course, I can't tell right now cause it's STILL COVERED IN SNOW!!!!


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