patience and ignorance

He’s got shoulders like a mountain and a smile like a sunny day,
The patience of a gardener and the will to find a way.
A mind that’s strong and steady and a heart that’s good and true
He’s a pretty good man if you ask me.

That’s the first verse of my of my favourite songs, sung by Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Another reference to patience and gardeners is in the name of a blog I sometimes visit: The Patient Gardener.

And in my last post Shady Gardener commented that gardening is by its nature one of slow growth and patience.

Am I a patient gardener?

I do buy already growing plants as well as seeds, but I buy them small and don’t water or fertilize. My garden project so far has been going for about 30 years and it’s still evolving.

This autumn there were many dried up miserable looking plants in the garden that I was sure were dead. I dug some of them up. It was painful to see them because they reminded me of the quite traumatic summer they and I have just endured. But now I realize they’re weren’t dead. They kind of went into hibernation and by now they would be wondrously sprouting tiny green shoots. But I was too impatient to wait till we got right into autumn.

I’m thinking of the relationship between patience and ignorance. My plants and I never experienced anything like that burning heat, day after day without a break. I didn’t know what they could withstand.

This is what I have learned and now know:

1.I lost plants that were not well established so from now on I must try to get them in and established well before summer.

2.I lost plants that didn’t have enough shade so I need to plant more shade trees and shrubs.

3.I lost plants that I pruned too hard before the weather cooled down. The burned leaves provided shade to those lower down so I need to leave them until the strong summer heat is over, even if they look pathetic. (This depends on whether my aim is survival or summer beauty, which I need to think about).

4.Many beautiful favourites of mine are really really tough. Here are a few of my favourites that have triumphed.

Erigeron - looked like a few dead sticks, but gradually green is appearing

Osteospermum ecklonis - thriving on neglect

Cistus - cut back hard a few weeks ago - already re-shooting

Salvia greggii -formerly a bit shrivelled but what a comeback!

So I do need more patience, but being patient is much easier if I know and can then imagine that those dried out miserable looking specimens really will re-shoot again in the autumn and come back as green and healthy and lovely as ever.


  1. Don't wear perfume in the garden - unless you want to be pollinated by bees. ~Anne Raver

    Sorry couldn't resist one of my favourite quotes. I think gardening teaches us not only patience but also wonder and humility. And you meet the nices garden bloggers as a bonus.

  2. Thanks for the reference to my post.
    I am always telling my Mum she is impatient. She is forever deciding plants have died just because the leaves havent appeared when she expects them to.

  3. I think I've been very impatient like you, and I kick myself thinking about it. However, I watched an episode of "A Gardener's Diary", and they were visiting a woman and her "traveling plants". She was so impatient that she knowingly planted invasive plants like creeping jenny and a number of others. I'm glad I'm not that kind of impatient.

  4. I think I'm both a patient and impatient gardener, but I'm happy to plant things that I know I won'tget the full effect from in my life time. I was also insterested in what survived the summer heat wave here in Melbourne - and I think your right about established plants being tougher - though the ongoing drought is starting to effect even some of these - we've lost a couple of old gum trees. One shrub that amazed me was the mexican orange bush - lush vibrant green all summer, with not a single burnt leaf!

  5. Hi Hermes, LOL - also dangerous to wear floral prints. Agree with wonder, humility and nice garden bloggers.

    Hi Patient, my mum is similar, she despairs when a deciduous plant drops its leaves.

    Hi NSAH, Yes - we're not that bad - although I must say I never thought of rampant weeds as a remedy for slowtime!

    Hi Iterinant, now that is truly sad - to lose old gum trees. Like those river red gums who are dying because of the rivers drying up - that is really, really, sad. I am quite unsentimental about losing young things. Mexican orange bushes are amazingly hardy, but they don't touch my soul like eucalypts.


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