Monday, July 1, 2013

A Life Lesson from English Gardens

I've been thinking lately about two adages that I've heard for most of my life. The one I heard first (and frequently) was "Patience is a virtue." The second came a little later, but has muddied the water on the first: "Carpe diem."

Until last week, I've long considered these two statements to be in conflict with one another. You can't really be exhibiting patience when you're seizing something, I think. To seize something is to grab, to lunge, to snatch and to do so with aggressive intent. It doesn't not suggest in any way (to my mind, at least) a careful consideration that ends in a calm selection. When I think about which side of the equation I most end up on, I would have to say that I am conflicted. I am terribly impatient with myself and other people (sadly), but when it comes to things I would really like to have, I can't be described as seizing them. I usually simply hope that they will fall into my lap. Oddly enough, visiting gardens in England this year has taught me an important lesson on both of these points.

As a gardener, I plant sparsely. I cannot explain why I do that now. Maybe it's the fear of spending too much on plants. Maybe it's thinking that if I plant too closely, I'll soon have to dig things up and move them. So I plant with great gaps and hope that my patience will be rewarded someday when everything grows together. I've had enough of that thinking, in my gardening and in my life.

Here are some examples of how English gardens are planted.

A Stanton village garden...brimming with plants

A bed at Hidcote...packed to the gills

The Secret Garden at Sudeley Castle...jammed full

And then there's my garden. A few plants (those in the right foreground) died while I was away. The French lavender (just to the left of the dog sculpture) gave up around the same time. But really, there's no excuse for the scene below.

Patience is not a virtue here

Life is an adventure, something to be celebrated, packed full, lived every moment. It should be exuberant, like all those English gardens I saw. My garden is not exuberant. The same may be said of my life, in general. Well, my patience has worn thin, and I'm feeling pretty virtuous about that.

Just a sampling of the plant purchase

I've completed part of the planting...

What is the grand lesson from English gardens? It's strange that I saw so many of them during our trip last year, yet I didn't get the message. I suppose I wasn't ready for it. But this time, I clearly heard them asking, "What are you waiting for?" That's their lesson. Carpe diem. Don't wait for things to fill up. Fill things up yourself. Let it all spill over. Let the description of your garden and your life be "ebullient." You can seize the day and be patient. They each have their place. Patience is a virtue when it comes to your interactions with others, but not in other areas of life, and certainly not in the garden. 

1 comment:

  1. I really like this post - such great advice and so applicable in many areas.