New Year’s Resolution to Edit the Garden
Kartik, my friend and computer wizard extraordinaire, went to India last year with his wife and children to visit his family for three weeks. When he returned, I was curious to know how he felt about the trip. He told me he was happy to be home, meaning literally back in his home and also that the trip confirmed that the US is his home. He then went on to explain how the trip had changed him in basic and important ways.
Although he does not view India through rose-colored glasses, Kartik marveled at the simplicity of life there and how that simplicity allows a truer appreciation of and sharper focus on “the important things”. With few possessions, little access to travel, and monetary restrictions, his Indian acquaintances focus on their community, their friends, their family, and especially their children. Food, conversation, time together is more important there without all the distractions of a consumer society. Although on balance he would rather live in the US, he missed the simplicity of India.
Not one to waste an important lesson, when Kartik returned home, he immediately began paring down his own possessions and lifestyle, ruthlessly eliminating what his family didn’t use or need. He said it gave him a great feeling of power over our endlessly consumer driven society. And, as he fixed my computer recently, he pointed out all the technological paraphernalia in my closet that I could do without: keyboards, mice, cables, adapters, manuals, disks, etc., that I was saving “in case I needed them”. At the end there was an almost empty closet.
After Kartik left, I started to relate his experience in India to my own at my family’s small summer cottage in Maine. With one big room downstairs and one partitioned room upstairs and no closets, our family is always together and there is no space for “stuff”. When I return to my much larger, closet-endowed home in PA, I feel overwhelmed by the clutter and more isolated as everyone disperses to the many rooms of our house.
Taking a page from Kartik’s book, I attacked our “stuff’ with a vengeance dispersing mountains of un-needed clutter to the thrift shop, my children’s school, and the local 7-11 parking lot where every item disappeared within a few hours. I too felt empowered by the process. Life really is simpler and more enjoyable with less things.
Then I started to think about the garden and how similar principles apply. I have the same reluctance to edit plants as I have to edit my belongings. There’s always hope for that half dead shrub, for that ground cover that didn’t fill in, for that perennial that clearly needs more sun. When the real answer is to move on. So in 2010 I resolved to tear out all non-performing plants, and the result was a huge improvement.
A row of boxwoods riddled with phytophthora made way for some beautiful fall-blooming camellias. Large patches of old hostas were removed to make room for new improved cultivars. A tangle of privet and wisteria was replaced by a magnificent view of the neighbor’s rose bushes. And, in many cases, struggling plants made room for more of what was already thriving at the site, adding to the overall impact of the garden.
For New Years, I highly recommend a resolution to edit your garden. The results will produce satisfaction for all of 2011.
Happy New Year,
Note: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information. For non-performing trees, I use intimidation before removing them. I threatened a 15-year-old yellowwood that if it didn’t bloom this year, I would cut it down. Naturally it was covered with flowers this spring. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it has worked numerous times for me.