Horticultural Therapy Thought of the day

Let’s celebrate horticultural inefficiency!

By Julie Boudreau

Winter is well established. This morning, I savor and congratulate myself on all the tasks that I would have liked (should) have done in the garden, but which were not carried out. Lack of time or motivation… Because I don’t have the right tools… Because I should do this before doing that… But most of the time, my horticultural inefficiency is motivated by the consequences of my inactions. And the consequences… there are none!

Gardening is a forgiving art. If I forget cookies in the oven (and believe me, I have forgotten cookies in the oven), they will burn. If I don’t take the right mesures when sawing boards in a renovation project, it will be noticed. If I neglect to repair my car, it will break down. On the other hand, if I forget to prune a certain branch, if I leave my dead leaves on my lawn, if I mow it twice a year… my garden will continue its daily routine.

In my beautiful Laidback Gardener cup, I savor the infusion of the day: fir shoots, mullein and coltsfoot flowers from my personal scavenging; wintergreen leaves harvested by my little cousin and honey produced by a precious friend. The perfect ingredients to celebrate my horticultural inefficiency! Photo: Julie Boudreau

The Real Force is Nature!

And always the same observation: Nature is so well made! Better than us, who try to reproduce it artificially, nature knows perfectly how to find its balance. It is the champion of loop cycles. It is the only factory where nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed. For all our horticultural flaws, for all our mistakes, nature has a solution.

My Garden Can do Without Me

It’s like tearing a mother’s heart apart. This garden that we maintain, that we pamper. This darling. We give it so much love and care. Yes, when you take good care of your garden, it is beautiful! It flowers. it flourishes!

But sometimes the opposite is just as true! In my early twenties, I was a counselor for a community garden. Everyone came weekly to maintain their lot. These conscientious gardeners watered, weeded and fertilized. They cut off diseased leaves and staked the tomato plants. But there was a garden … The one we point at… The mother and her son came early in the spring, sowing seeds, planting vegetables. It was off to a good start. Then we never saw them again. Weeds invaded the lot. It was a total mess.

At the end of the season, the president of the garden committee asked the lady to come and clean her lot. She showed up with a laundry basket and filled it with amazing vegetables. Hidden in this jungle of total horticultural inaction were the largest tomatoes that came out of these community gardens. She filled her basket with cucumbers, beets, carrots, onions, cabbage… It was a real epiphany for me. The beginning of a great lesson of THE FORCE: plants don’t need us. And sometimes, plants even do better without us.

Stay Calm in Front of the Mountain

So, this morning, with a warm infusion in the palm of my hand, I remember all these beautiful horticultural tasks that I have deliberately neglected. I see my cedar hedge that I prune approximately every three years (even though I teach to do it every year!). It’s not a nice dense cushion, but it is dense enough to play its role as a visual screen. I see this trunk of vinegar tree, dead of old age, which I began to cut up. It sticks out about 2 meters above the ground and has been a wonderful perch for birds all summer. I used to see (because now the snow has covered them) the dead leaves in my backyard, which I completely neglected to pick up. I see a few pots of perennials, purchased at the very end of the season, that I was unable to plant in the fall. I know that where they are piled up, they will be waiting for me. I see some apple tree branches heading where they shouldn’t go. I see the pile of bricks, those that I collect here and there, in the piles of waste from construction sites. They are waiting for me to line them up to complete the outline of my flower beds. I see all these little things that “I should have, would have, could have” and which remained unfinished works. I see the pileup, the endless list, of tasks for eternity… and I savor my warm infusion, in the palm of my hand.

Julie Boudreau is a horticulturist who trained at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. She’s been working with plants for more than 25 years. She has published many gardening books and hosted various radio and television shows. She now teaches horticulture at the Centre de formation horticole of Laval. A great gardening enthusiast, she’s devoted to promoting gardening, garden design, botany and ecology in every form. Born a fan of organic gardening, she’s curious and cultivates a passion for all that can be eaten. Julie Boudreau is “epicurious” and also fascinated by Latin names.

6 comments on “Let’s celebrate horticultural inefficiency!

  1. Thank you.

  2. i am a laidback gardener…

  3. I love being a laidback gardener… no guilt!

  4. Wonderful writing!!!
    Enjoy your infusion and dream of next year ?

  5. Christine Lemieux

    I agree as well. As the weather turns cooler I lose my motivation. No worries, it will come back by spring.

  6. Yep, totally agree. It will still all be there in Spring when gardeners are eager to get out doors and get to work. By the end of the season we are just plain tired.

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