How Gardening is Like Writing by Carleen Brice

Both are about creating something where before there was nothing. Bare ground, blank page. With both, the best stuff comes when we dig deep. With both, we strive for beauty and for contributing something to the world around us.
My husband and I started out with a plan for our yard, which we mostly followed. We had the rock company put the boulders where we wanted them, and we planted evergreen shrubs and trees where we wanted. We (when I’m referring to hard physical labor and say “we,” I mean “he”) dug up the lawn with a sod cutter. Then we (this one includes me too) laid down long sheets of brown paper to cover the weedy soil, which we topped with a few tons (literally) of recycled wood mulch. We let this sit for a winter and then the next spring we started planting perennials — blue flax, yarrow, California poppies, black-eyed Susans, moonbeam coreopsis, fire witch dianthus (how could a writer resist these names?). And we (well, ok, I) strayed a bit from the plan.
We started with a list of half a dozen or so low-water, low-maintenance plants, but something happened as I started to work in the yard. The plan didn’t go out the window so much as the garden transcended the plan. Friends offered me Shasta daisies, irises, four o’clocks and hens and chicks from their gardens. I fell in love with cosmos, snow-in-summer, wine cups, Elijah blue fescue, sunset hyssop (a late bloomer with purple and orange flowers that smell like root beer barrel candy) and orange carpet hummingbird trumpet (which brings hummingbirds to our city yard). A vacant lot nearby sprouted blue salvia and a virtually indestructible plant that is either feverfew or chamomile, and I dug them up and brought them home. And, of course, I had to plant some orange mint.
What we ended up with isn’t nearly as easy or as orderly as we envisioned, but the combinations of colors, scents and shapes of the blooms, the different views between rocks and over seas of flowers are much better than I could have imagined when we first started. It was good that we had the plan and laid a foundation of the rocks and evergreens to anchor everything. But it was also good to go a little crazy with the flowers.
This is also how gardening is like writing: have a plan, but don’t be afraid to ignore it when your own work leads you to something better.
Meet Our Blogger:
Carleen Brice is author of the novels Orange Mint and Honey and Children of the Waters. Orange Mint and Honey appeared on the Lifetime Movie Network as Sins of the Mother, starring Jill Scott. It was LMN’s second-highest rated original movie ever. Carleen is currently at work on her third novel.

5 responses »

  1. I enjoyed reading this and while doing so you brought back memories of my grandmothers and aunts gardens. I love black-eyed Susan’s and cosmo’s. Made me feel that I was right there in the garden.

  2. Carleen, thanks for the reminder to trust the process. A plan often gives us the courage to begin, but it is trust that will take us to the places that we could not have imagined during the planning. Wishing you success in handling all your gardens. 🙂

  3. Jennifer, Yes there are hen and chicks. They are succulents and the hen plant spreads and the new growth is called the chicks. Good for rock gardens. The Elijah blue fescue is an ornamental grass that is very pretty, drought-tolerant and easy to grow.

  4. I hear my mother talk about her hen and chicken plant. I thought she was crazy, but reading it here now I realize that there really is such a thing. Also need to look up the Elijah blue fescue, because my youngest son is named Elijah.

    I understand the comparison and agree. That’s why when I write I loosely jot down some ideas I want to see fleshed out in the story. I don’t want to become tied to my outline so much so that I lose the voice of the characters.

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