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Chalk one up for ‘good enough’ in the garden


My garden has taught me a lot of lessons, but one of the most important is that good enough is usually good enough. When perfectionist tendencies rise to the surface, the garden is the perfect place to tamp them back into place. There is only so much a control a gardener can have over what happens in a garden. And when there is a never-ending list of things to be done, putting a checkmark next to a task is sometimes more important than doing it perfectly.

This tuteur (I’ve called it an obelisk forever, but I think tuteur is the more correct term) is a metaphor for my progress in embracing my friend Eric’s “done is better than perfect” philosophy. 

homemade obelisk

When I built it I messed up the angles (this will come as no shock to anyone who suffered through high school geometry with me). I thought about redoing it and then realized I had other things I had to get done in the garden, so I called it good enough and moved on.

I painted it a bright lime green and it hung out in the vegetable garden.

lime green tuteur

A few years later I was feeling a turquoise vibe, so I gave it a hasty coat of spray paint, without so much as cleaning it first.

turquoise tuteur obelisk

Then it went black, with an equal amount of care (or lack thereof) to the paint job. It also moved to a spot near the garage.

It should come as no surprise that paint jobs like these do not stand the test of time, and by this spring it was looking like a discount camouflage T-shirt. So paint was called for and I was thinking …. gray.

bad paint job obelisk

I asked people to guess on Instagram what color I was going to paint it. The guess were far ranging but yellow was far ahead, followed by various shades of blue. Suddenly I realized everyone else was way more exciting than I was.

That probably saved me from getting really old and boring because I ended up painting it a slightly grayed down Wythe Blue, thanks to a bit of custom mixing from supplies found in my still-not-cleaned out paint closet. The Wythe Blue, incidentally was briefly the color of the side access door on the garage until I decided it was too boring there.

Wythe blue obelisk tuteur

newly painted obelisk

I am preferring to think of this color choice as “letting the plants be the star” rather than “Erin is getting super boring.” Either way, I got that baby painted (even sanded a bit first), called it good and checked that job off the list.

Not perfect, but good enough. 

30 Responses

  1. I appreciate your feelings! I am learning more every year. I feel inspired by you to leave my mulch down instead of clearing my garden. Soon after all the plants will cover it all! quite well! I also planted poppy seeds in February, so don’t dare mess with this area. Thanks for your encouragement! About the Obelisks, my metal needs welding, but once the clematis grows on it you’ll never know how good it is.

  2. I can’t believe you built a tuteur, it turned out great! I consider myself handy but I wouldn’t know where to begin building something like that. It looks very professional.

  3. Thank you for this. The fear of not making something perfect often means I am petrified of even starting something. I just have to remember the giddy joy of accomplishment when done is reason enough to start! Cheers to “not perfect”! The current paint color is beautiful.

  4. Oh girl you made that……I love it with any color. The multi color did bring her a sentimental look about her. But she’s back to looking her grand style again. I still loved the multi, I must be over doing my love of ‘used and loved look’. Enjoy watching. Oh and I just finished making my 1st raised beds with a 5′ separation and 2 cattle panels arched over for vertical planting. I will probably have to start climbing veg plants all over again since my kitchen looks like Little shop of horrors……because I just couldn’t wait. I’ll never learn. Again, love your videos.

  5. I struggle with wanting things perfect in the garden too….. also letting myself just enjoy the space sometimes instead of tackling one of the never ending jobs. I really like the color you chose, sometimes less is more.

  6. “Done and checked” is beautifully succinct. I also like the “better than a poke in the eye” approach. Ours was always a rather cynical “Close enough for government work.”
    So much camaraderie in a community of gardeners!

  7. Done & checked is definitely ‘good enough’!! I have way to msny projecys gone undone for years because I didn’t feel I could get it perfect. As said comes with age, ..the wisdom.. of just getting it done is enough!!

  8. I love it. I have been watching for a couple of years, and you are the only gardener that I know of that makes me: inspired, confident and like I have a clue. But the straight up best part of what I get from your blog, Instagram and YouTube? Some much need permission to just do my best and relax. I’m a transplant from arid Colorado to humid South New Jersey and I’ve been out of my depth. I have failed, I have planted the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong spot. I get all worked up watching Monty and I can hear his polite recriminations as I walk through our garden. Then.. I watch you, or read the blog and I’m like “nah, I got this!” I planted my poppies like you said and they are coming up! Whole sentimental back story on those. I have blatantly copied your flower choices, and I have added black stain to garden beds, and a very sturdy obelisk.. sorry, Tuteur, that my husband made for me. My neighbors honestly think I know what I’m doing, and it’s all because of you. You give me permission to enjoy gardening. From one Erin to another, thank you!

  9. Thank you for this post. Today, as I worked in the flower beds weeding, I kept thinking, “Ughhh, I missed another weed. Why can’t my beds look perfect?” It is a constant battle with the weeds and some days I just want to pour a glass of wine and wallow in my self-pity of non-perfectionism. I am happy to give myself permission to be not so perfect., but i am still having that glass of wine, but with less self- pity. Cheers!

  10. That is what I like to think God thinks about me. I’m old, I’ve changed a lot over the years, and although I’m not perfect I get the job done.

  11. I really needed this reminder this week…I feel like I’m stuck in mud with lots to do in the garden and not able to make decisions!! But…”good enough” will be my motto moving forward! ??

  12. In the UK, my (very sweet and gentle) dad would say when something was not perfect, that it was “ better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick.”

  13. The angles look great to me. I just said I wanted to build one of these. I call them obelisks as well. I’m just runn8ng out of room!

  14. Boring???? i LOVE this color. It’s perfect. Now did you have plans for this tuteur when you built it, OT did you just wing it? If so, it’s doubly amazing.

  15. This is absolutely TERRIFIC and is such a look in the mirror at the “stupid” things I’ve wasted my time on. Admire your honesty for putting this out there. LOVED “letting the plants be the stars of the garden.” Ain’t that what we’re all really after? Yah.

  16. I appreciate your sentiments! I am learning this more each year. I think I was inspired by you to leave my leaf mulch down, instead of cleaning my garden to perfection. After all the plants will soon cover it all! Good enough! I also threw the Poppy seeds out in February, so don’t dare mess with that area. Thanks for your inspiration! Regarding Obelisks, my metal one needs welding, but once the Clemetis grows on it your never know 🙂 Good enough!

  17. Good morning!
    Our family uses a mnemonic for this! GEFOP stands for Good Enough for Our Purposes! I can’t tell you how many times GEFOP has come in handy and what better way than to describe your paint color adventure. Feel free to ‘steal’ GEFOP anytime it fits a situation.

  18. I understand every garden has something in it like that. But that being said, I must be boring too, because I love the color that you chose.

  19. I totally related to this story! Thank you for sharing something we’ve Ll been thru at one time another. I have two metal potion chairs that need scraping and painting with probably as many coats of paint as your tuteur. You’re absolutely right, Let the plants shine and full speed ahead!

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