When we bought our first home so many years ago, I thought of home and garden design in terms of magazine spreads–things and furniture and plant life neatly arranged in exactly the right place, constant, tidy, and perfect. It was a finite process in my mind, one with clear beginnings and endings and words like finished and unfinished. Although I do love renovating homes, arranging furniture, and finding the perfect spot for our favorite little things, I’ve realized over the years that design, both indoor and outdoor, is a far more organic process, one that longs to breathe and evolve along with its inhabitants. Regardless of the completeness of your space when you move in to it, the concept of home is something that develops and grows with time. All good things truly do take time.
For all the time interiors require, gardens have taken me longer to learn. My journey with growing and nurturing plants has been one characterized more by error than anything else–I hope this brings some of you comfort. In our first home, an apartment, I created a flower garden on our patio–a tiny nook where we could sit and enjoy natural beauty instead of the concrete parking lot below. In spite of my best effort, I watched, frustrated, as plant after plant died that season. Year after year, with each new beginning, my husband would sort of raise his brow as if to say, “are you sure?” I’ve never been one to back off learning too easily, but it’s not a surprise that my love and patience for plant life has burgeoned alongside my mothering years. They are independent but parallel journeys, one always whispering secrets and skills to me about the other. In spite of failure, each planting has taught me something new and given me more resolve to try again, to learn.
When we moved into our current home, the plant-life had overgrown everything outdoors. Vines crept up and around trees. Dead branches scattered about the yard and dangled from branches. Pieces of trash–tires and old pipes and bottles–lay intertwined beneath heaps of enmeshed stems and leaves. Our yard, although living, had been forgotten and abandoned. During our first spring and summer last year, we began cutting back and cleaning out some of the rubbish. Sometimes nurturing means tearing down and clearing out. We filled bag upon bag of leaves and decayed brush, and often, it appeared as if we had done nothing. Life can be like this, yes? In one instance, progress might occur overnight, while in another, it evolves more slowly through a series of minutia. Don’t discount the minutia.
In early spring this year, my husband, children, and I cleared and cut out the entire back part of our yard–all of the brush and dead bits–down to the soil. We tilled and leveled the earth a bit and then replanted sod. We purchased old railway ties to create vegetable garden beds and planted 18 tree saplings. Everywhere we live, we plant trees. Although all of our plantings are small, just a bit more than seeds, they are simple reminders to me that everything–the mightiest oaks to the most pivotal human lives–begins small.
Whether you’re gardening or decorating or parenting, beginning a business or a new relationship, be patient with the growing process and don’t forsake small beginnings.