Garden Psychology: What Does Your Garden Say About You?

July 19th, 2012 Posted in Insects, annuals, bees, butterflies, garden design, lawn replace, philosophy, recipes, vegetables

Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.” Alfred Austin

Turk's cap
Like our home’s interior, our gardens reflect our essential selves at truly ground level. What do our gardens say about us?

Yucca recurvifolia 'Margaritaville'

  • Risk or safety (the gambler in us: new plants/planting early or late/marginally adapted plants)
  • Trends or personal aesthetic (choosing best of each/adaptation?)
  • Do own thing or go for approval  (from parents/neighbors/garden friends)
  • Casual/natural or pruning warrior  (do your Felcos wear out in a week?)
  • Garden art: subdued, dramatic, quirky, sentimental, bunny sculptures (?!)
  • Colors (attraction or rejection)
  • Straight lines or curves
  • Sparse design or cottage garden spill (or a bit of both)
  • Babying or tough love (all living things need tending; where do you draw the line?)
  • Research to pieces or fall in love with a plant and get it?
  • What do you ask Santa? Does it involve a truck?

All living things will throw us a curve. How do we manage our troubles and respect our success?

Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) with Gulf Fritillary butterfly

  • Anger management (Why did it rain EVERYWHERE EXCEPT AT MY HOUSE?)
  • When to fix a problem plant and when to compost  it
  • Depression (drought/heat/extreme freeze/too many bugs/too much rain/rampant disease)
  • Appreciation of accomplishments/obsessive self-critic/trying for magazine cover
  • Learning from your mistakes or repeating them

Some gardeners are very precise in their jobs, but relaxed in the garden. Oh yes, that’s me!  I’ve run into obsessive plant movers, pruning maniacs, weather freaks (moi), and can you believe it, snobs?!

I just want to whack their turned up noses with some horticultural taxonomy that I probably can’t pronounce. Oops, I need some anger management!  Guess I’ll go pummel a stink bug. An Hempitera of some sort. . .!

But every gardener I’ve met has these qualities: curiosity, tenacity, creativity, and passion. Plants connect us to hope, anticipation, learning and nurturing.

Plumeria buds

In spring at a box store, I saw a woman carefully cradle her single little choice with such love and tenderness. I resisted my control freak urge to tell her that she was planting it way too early and it would probably rot. Because that’s where we all started: with dreams. And joy. And one little plant.

Shrimp plant
And I just bet that plant made it!

This week on CTG, we explore WHY we garden. Tom joins Billy Lee Myers, Jr. LMFT to analyze how our earthly connections enrich our souls and our relationships.

Tom Spencer and Billy Lee Myers Jr. LMFT
One concept Billy notes is our comfort zone. His friend, Jenn Miori, a musician with The Carper Family, contributed her insightful drawing. It certainly connects for me!

Jenn Miori comfort zone

On Billy’s website, I’ve already read many of his articles that help me greatly with challenges in my life. Sometimes we need someone to help us turn around our perspectives.

As I developed this program, Rick Bickling, blogger at The How Do Gardener, sent me this humorous take on our troubles: The Five Stages of Garden Grief. Bet you’ve been there!

Continuing our garden psychology theme, Daphne explains how annuals contribute to our mood (and what an annual really means). Really, one sweet little plant can turn a buster day into a heavenly one, even in a patio pot.  And zinnias like this will improve your day with all the butterflies that nectar on them!

Zinnia Central Texas Gardener

Daphne’s Pick of the Week is sweet potato vine, a perennial that is usually an annual for us. One of mine is in a pot set into—dare I reveal this—a bunny sculpture from It’s About Thyme. I even protected it over winter in my patio greenhouse to return to the bunny ASAP in spring.

Sweet potato vine on bunny sculpture
Its vivid colors (chartreuse here, but it also comes in deep purple and other renditions) chases away the summertime blues.  It takes sun, though I love it to brighten up my psycho shady area as a spreading groundcover in summer to fill the space that perennial oxalis covers in cool weather.

Many of us fell in love with gardening when we harvested our first vegetables. This week, Trisha picks the cucumbers that work best for us and how to grow them. It’s not too late to find some cucumber love!

Trisha Shirey picks cucumbers for Central Texas Gardener
Get her growing tips, including how to assist pollination. And oh yes, you’ll want to try her summertime recipes that will get you past the grumps when it’s hot and sticky out there.

Trisha also explains that if you want to spray neem oil or spinosad to deal with cucumber pests, don’t use it while bees are active. These products will kill your pollinating bees if the leaves/flowers are still wet when they arrive. Apply when the bees aren’t active (like in the evening). Once the products dry, it’s safe for bees.

On tour, see how Kati & David Timmons found a new perspective when they turned an old yard into a garden of spirit. Minus grass, too.

Finally, bunnies Harvey and Gaby wanted me to share this with you. Thanks to “One Big Happy” Rick Detorie!

One Big Happy by Rick Detorie

Okay, off to look for more bunny ornaments. Thanks for checking in and see you next week! Linda

  1. 14 Responses to “Garden Psychology: What Does Your Garden Say About You?”

  2. By Bob Beyer on Jul 19, 2012

    I absolutely love your writeup about Garden Psychology and after reading it realized it really does say who I am, and in my case, how I have changed.


    Linda reply on July 19th, 2012 7:44 pm:

    Thank you, Bob! Isn’t it interesting how we change with our gardens? You and Lana are quite remarkable.


  3. By MikeKerr on Jul 19, 2012

    Thanks for the good garden video clips, I really enjoy them. Especially like this one, a little more formal beds than I would do, but like all the rest.


    Linda reply on July 19th, 2012 7:42 pm:

    Thank you, Mike! Next week, we feature a garden from San Antonio!


  4. By Cat on Jul 19, 2012

    Loved your post! But especially love the story about the sweet lady at the box store…I bet her little plant lived too ;) It’s true. We put so much love into our gardens and they just pay us back tenfold! Have a great weekend, Linda.


    Linda reply on July 20th, 2012 1:47 pm:

    Well, your garden is a place of spiritual joy!


  5. By Daphne on Jul 20, 2012



  6. By Shirley Dehmer on Jul 21, 2012

    Daphne, I had to go into Houston to M D Anderson and went to Cornelius Nursary while there. I found a Fish Tail Fern that I have been looking for for sixty years. I also found a verigated Boston Fern, and best of all I found beautiful Rex Begonias. I spent valuable monies on those plants, but gladly. They have all done great except the Rex Begonias. One of them has almost died and is hanging on by a thread, no leaves left. It looks like a tiny one is struggling to come out; the second plant has half died and it’s future is iffy. The third is doing great! What gives? They all got the same size pot and the same new soil and they are all placed in the same area on my porch so get the same sun light and shade. I have an Angel Wing Begonia that gets round holes in some of the leaves, but otherwise does great. I spray the leaves with a fungicide, and used the same thing on the Rex Begonias, thinking that they all suffer with the same illness. What am I doing wrong? I love those plants and value them. I have never found the Rex Begonias in the Austin area and don’t go back to M D Anderson until September. I doubt they will have them for sell in September. Could it be the heat? Maybe I should try bringing them into the house. Any ideas? Thanks a million.
    About the unusual tree with palmate leaves I asked about last week. I have gone online looking. The leaf looks similar to a castor Bean leaf, though smaller. The tips of the lobes on castor bean are more uniform that those on my mystery tree. Mine are more like fingers with broadened ends from the last joint to the end of the finger. The palm area is smaller than it would be on a human hand. I checked Arelias. I found a site that listed and showed a picture of every Arelia in the world. Mine is not one of them. I tried to check shrubs as well. No luck yet. I’m still looking when I get the chance.


    Linda reply on July 21st, 2012 2:20 pm:

    Hi, Shirley! I’m glad for your finds but sorry about the Rex begonias. Maybe too much water? It sort of sounds like they could be rotting, even though one is okay. I’d leave off the fungicide, too. Linda


  7. By Desert Dweller / David C. on Jul 21, 2012

    Great show – compliments to the David who designed that informal planting-overlaid-on-formal-beds. (DIYers may note the result was from his designing it before having the contractor bid / build it, not having the contractor design it for free) Billy Lee Myers take on the human-horticulture connections was surprisingly stunning, and so relevant, given this week’s tragedy in my former home ‘burb.

    These comments are like being gathered w/ some of my garden compadres over a beer and plant tales…in the shade, of course. Thanks.


    Linda reply on July 21st, 2012 2:15 pm:

    Thank you, David!


  8. By renee (renee's roots) on Jul 24, 2012

    Nice post, Linda. This is so true. Our gardens are so much more than dirt and rocks and plants and mulch. They are mirrors for us and our lives.


    Linda reply on July 24th, 2012 6:08 pm:

    And yours is an especially beautiful mirror!


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