No garden variety apologies needed

While shopping at box stores and garden nurseries, I often see old friends and meet new ones, usually over plants. In fact, it’s one of my favorite ways to meet people.

At parties, when new friends learn I’m a garden writer, they seem to feel the need to apologize for their garden or lack of plant-growing expertise.

Deck with plants, chairs and rug. It's a cozy outdoor space where we relax in the evenings.
Deck with plants, chairs and rug. It’s a cozy outdoor space where we relax in the evenings.

No garden variety apologies are needed. I don’t expect everyone to garden like I do. Really, I don’t.

What I do is labor-intensive, obsessive and hard. Also, the garden--and my plant knowledge--grew over the years. Click To Tweet

What I do is labor-intensive, obsessive and hard. Also, the garden–and my plant knowledge–grew over the years. I know I’m nuts.

I do hope you’ll garden though. You don’t have to plow up the back forty or plant an acre of tomatoes, peppers, and squash either. Even tending one pot on your deck or porch is gardening.

Hemerocallis 'Ever Redeemewd' (Carpenter 2003) daylily
Hemerocallis ‘Ever Redeemed’ (Carpenter 2003) daylily. Check out that saturated color.

Really. I started with houseplants in the 1970s and macrame. My first real “garden” was a small plot outdoors with three roses, some begonias and another tropical/annual I no longer remember.

Potager and boxwood hedges. I didn't start gardening like this. It evolved over time.
Potager and boxwood hedges. I didn’t start gardening like this. It evolved over time.

Men seem to feel the need to apologize for their lawns or lack of one. If only they knew how little I care about grass maintenance. Women tell me their true confessions about all the flowers/vegetables they’ve killed.

Do you think I don't kill plants? Oh yes, I surely do. I just don't take pictures of their dead bodies. Ha! Click To Tweet

Do you think I don’t kill plants? Oh yes, I surely do. I just don’t take pictures of their dead bodies. Ha!

H. 'Mystical Intuition' daylily (Petit 2011)
H. ‘Mystical Intuition’ daylily (Petit 2011)


If you don’t kill something once in a while, you’re not growing as a gardener.

You’re not branching out and trying new things. Plus, the climate in Oklahoma lends itself to plant death and destruction. It’s ok. With every plant we kill, we learn new things about our climate, soil and water conditions. We discover those plants that can deal with clay and those that turn up their leaves and die.

Do you think people find me intimidating? Gosh, I hope not. I don’t want to intimidate anyone. Instead, I want to help. It’s why I wrote The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff.

My last post on lilies made me realize, again, that people find gardening hard. It’s not hard. It’s simply a skill that must be learned, one tomato plant, one lettuce, one zinnia at a time. I’m still learning.

Gardens take planning, but in our hurry-up world, gardening is the balm of Gilead.
H. 'Dragonfly Dawn' daylily (Trimmer-J., 2010)
H. ‘Dragonfly Dawn’ daylily (Trimmer-J., 2010)

Gardening is unhurried and calm. If you don’t use power tools, it is also supremely quiet other than the sounds of insects buzzing about doing their thing. By the way, gardens should be full of insects, toads, and frogs, rabbits, and birds. If you’re able to create a small ecosystem for them, they will come, and your garden will be better for it.

Ecosystem sounds so grand, doesn’t it? It’s not really.

Just don’t use pesticides, organic or chemical–as much as possible. Cut down on herbicides too. Plant flowers full of nectar and those that feed baby butterflies and moths, and have some type of water in the garden. Really and truly, that’s all there is to it.

H. 'Free Wheelin'' daylily (Stamile, 2004). This big and bold daylily is truly one of my favorites. It blooms pretty early, but the flowers are huge and open in multiples.
H. ‘Free Wheelin” daylily (Stamile, 2004). This big and bold daylily is truly one of my favorites. It blooms pretty early, but the flowers are huge and open in multiples.

But, back to intimidation, no worries. When I visit your home, or see you at the box store or nursery, I’m not judging your space. The only garden I ever judge is my own, and I’m constantly learning, one mistake at a time.

Do you think seeing my garden online stresses people out?

I hope not. I don’t expect anyone to garden this much space this intensively. Cottage gardens are a lot of maintenance. I’d like to think that if I started over at a new property tomorrow, I would go for an easier landscape style, but I doubt it. I need flowers like some people need their morning latte.

I need crowded, jumbled and tumbled spaces. I need scented plants. I need butterflies, moths, bees and flower flies. I crave the garden the same way some people crave chocolate cake. If you told me I couldn’t garden, I think I would simply wither up and die.

My garden represents a lifetime of learning, and please note, I’m still learning. My garden is my life’s work, and since I began gardening when I was nineteen, that translates to thirty-six years.

Gosh, that makes me sound old. I think I’ll just go off and totter into the sunset.

Just kidding. I do mean this though. If you have a question, please ask me. I may not know the answer, but if not I’ll find it. Gardening is like breathing. It’s what I do, and I want to help you garden in whatever capacity you can. We need to get off our computers and see and touch the real world. It brings down stress, and it makes us slow down and appreciate our lives.

So, ask me gardening questions, but no garden variety apologies please.


  1. This posting is brilliant, Dee. Every word resonates with me. People constantly apologize to me, tell me their story, and don’t realize that ‘what I do is labor-intensive, obsessive and hard.’ Like you, I am nuts. As for feeling old: my dear friend, I am old enough to be your mother and still maintain a cottage garden. Just imagine you will be doing this twenty years from now when I am pushing 100. Somehow gardening has the effect of keeping me young and wearing me out at the same time. Oh, and I still kill plants on a seasonal basis. Last fall I planted nine (rather expensive) bare-root giant delphiniums and not a one survived. I know I must have giant delphiniums for a ‘real’ cottage garden, but I haven’t succeeded yet. I agree that this is one of your best postings, dear friend. I will keep a copy of it and quote you in my book — with your permission of course. P. x

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Pam, I am sorry over your delphiniums. Tricky buggars they are. I’ve given up on them in Oklahoma. Thank you so much for such kind words. I felt very pressed to write this. I don’t judge anyone. Just myself.

  2. Bonna Nichols says:

    Dee, I love your Blog and Instagram! I enjoy the pictures because you can grow so many things that don’t have a chance of living in the panhandle! 🙂 I have to confess to being a bit miffed over that! HaHa!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Bonna, I don’t blame you a bit for being miffed. The panhandle is what separates women gardeners from girls. Just kidding. I’m lucky that my property is nestled in the hills and somewhat protected from the wind.

  3. You may be glad to know that you don’t intimidate me, because I know how much work it all is to garden that intently. I still love gardening, but my back doesn’t love me to. So I’ve eased my labors over the years. And still I love it.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Robin, I figure I don’t intimidate you at all. You’re an experienced gardener girl.

  4. Layanee says:

    Never trust a young gardener but, that said, we all started out there and with 36 years of wisdom, you have experienced the rhythm of your seasons and the wisdom of time. I have learned so much more from my mistakes than my successes and you are so right about stretching limits and killing plants. Three times is my limit and then it gets booted out. Gardening and gardens should never be competitive but more an art form and a garden showing ‘the hand of the gardener’ is my favorite type of garden. I hope to see yours some day in person but, for now, keep the blog posts coming.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Layanee, three is my limit too. I give everything three strikes, and like in baseball, they are then out.

  5. Good post! It’s all relative, isn’t it? I think the neighbors sometimes wonder why I spend so much time in the garden–I could putter and weed and plant forever. But many gardeners have much more impressive gardens than I do. It’s a continuum of joy, passion, experience, experimentation, style, and constant learning. Most of all, it’s a healthy and fun hobby. No apologies.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Beth, I couldn’t say it any better. I totally agree.

  6. Sally says:

    Oh yea…..I forgot. I hate our lawn! The sun can burn it all up. The Saver has put so much $ into our front, total failure, lawn it’s not funny. I want to buy native grass that grows to a certain length and then lies down but he’s not havin’ it. (men and their lawns!)

  7. Sally says:

    Hi Dee,
    When I was a new gardener, I was devastated to lose plants. Now, I know there are plants that will flourish in my gardens and those that won’t even if their hardiness, soil and sun requirements all say they will. I appreciate your know how and your willingness to share what you know.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Sally, I was too. I think I took every loss personally like it was my fault. I now know that while it is sometimes my fault, other times, it’s the weather. Our weather is very hard on plants in Oklahoma. Thank you so much.

  8. Linda Belcher says:

    I couldn’t choose a favorite photo on your blog today. I have been filled with joy this spring season in being able to have all my beds at their best. Looking forward to maintenance and weeding. You are an inspiration. Linda B

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Linda, it’s a been a beautiful spring and early summer hasn’t it? I’ve loved it all so far except for the mosquitoes. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  9. DMM77 says:

    I’d call myself an advanced beginning gardener and I find your posts inspiring! After the lily post, I wrote down several I’d like to add to my garden this fall. And I loved the Facebook live videos. I found them very helpful. We live in different zones but I still love reading about your garden and search the blog often when I have questions. Gardening can be intimidating though but I like to think it builds character too!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you so much for commenting! Sometimes, I feel like I’m just talking to myself. Haha! I’ll try to do more Facebook live videos once the garden tour is over. Prepping for it is taking everything I have. I’m tired.

  10. This is one of your best posts Dee. I have thought many of these thoughts often and have come up against this aversion to my garden due to making others feel inadequate. That is so not what gardening is to me. I love to see other gardens even if it is just a pot of geraniums on the porch, or an herb on the kitchen window sill. Gee we aren’t all addicted like I am, and obviously like you are. 😉 But they better beware. That small pot of pittosporum sitting in the living room can turn into a major landscape in the future if you aren’t careful. 🙂

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yes Lisa! Aren’t geraniums on the porch once of the best things ever?? They will lead you down the path of garden obsession rather quickly, won’t they? I love this comment. It made me smile. Happy garden days, Lisa.

  11. I agree, no apologies needed. Just enjoy gardening at whatever level you’re at.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey Kathy, exactly!!! It’s all a process.

  12. Cindy, MCOK says:

    So much of what you said resonates with this fellow cottage gardener! I tell people who stop to visit with me about the garden that I started all this when I was 20 years younger and I never once paused to consider whether I’d be able to keep up with it all 20 years down the garden path. It’s hard work but having neighbors and passersby tell me how much they love it, makes all the work worthwhile. Well, most of it … most days … 🙂

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Cindy, I’ve seen your beautiful garden, and it is one of my all-time favorites. I mean that.

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