Dear Margaret, We Dance This Mess Around

My Garden September 2013

UPDATE: Marilyn is the chosen-at-random winner of this giveaway. Please feel free to keep adding your words in the comments.

Dear Margaret,

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this short passage, an exchange between writer Alice Walker and her mother that appears in her memoir, The Same River Twice.

“…”You(‘re) a little mess, ain’t you.” Meaning someone selfish enough to fully express her being.”

The concept of messiness is a theme that has made repeat appearances in my life, most especially within the last year. I like this positive interpretation of a psychological and physical state of being that is typically negative and often associated with becoming unhinged, unglued, or downright filthy. Messy is an ugly crying jag in public and wearing your bra on the outside of your clothing. It’s lashing out on social media, putting your foot in your mouth in a professional meeting, and dirty dishes that have been sitting in the sink, around the sink, and possibly on the floor beneath the sink for days.

Dear Margaret: Those two words are how each “letter” in this series of letters to my friend Margaret Roach of A Way to Garden begins. This is letter number four. The entire archive of my letters so far can be read here. Margaret’s most recent letter to me is here.

Nobody wants to be a mess or be seen as becoming a mess, and yet Alice Walker’s version is an indulgence, possibly even something to aspire to and celebrate. Our messiness is a part of being ourselves, being whole, being human. It is our vulnerability and our fallibility shown. For that reason and more, 2013 has been a year of transition, the year that I stopped fighting my mess and have (or have at least tried to) let it be. It’s the year I decided to (or at least try to) accept my imperfections and let them hang out (a little).

“The garden is growth and change and that means loss as well as constant new treasures to make up for a few disasters.” – May Sarton

Fall Garden Cleanup
This pile of debris from the garden has given me an idea for a Halloween costume.

These past weeks, I have been slowly, almost begrudgedly going through the motions of preparing my garden for the cold and quiet next phase. Here’s another place where I am trying to be a better, more “evolved” and accepting person — I am re-imagining winter as a phase rather than an ending. We’ll see how well this holds up when the first snow flakes fall. As I do fall’s labour in the garden: ripping out annuals, bringing the tender potted plants indoors, cutting back perennials, harvesting end of the season produce and whatnot, I’ve found my mind flipping through mental images of this past growing season. I am literally surrounded by the mess created in the garden’s unravelling, and so the question of Alice Walker’s interpretation of the word comes up, asking me to look at the garden in a new way.

When it comes to gardening, a mess is the antithesis of tidy, and a neat and tidy garden is the one that is most often aspired to. I can’t think of a time when I have looked around at my garden and thought to myself with pride, “Look at this gorgeous mess.” Orderly is what appears in the magazines. It assumes that the gardener is diligent, hard working, and has pride of place, or the money to pay someone else to make it so. Clean is high class. It keeps the neighbors happy. It says, “I have got my shit together people, and I know what I am doing.

Margaret, I think it is safe to say that while I may make my living as a person who writes about the act of gardening my garden does not show me to be a gardener who has got their shit together. At least, not by the standards above. Yes, I obsess about plants and their care, and yes, I do have a knack for understanding their needs and keeping them alive. However, it would not be accurate or truthful to use adjectives such as neat and orderly to describe my gardens. In fact, the 2013 gardening season was, by far, my messiest yet.

First, allow me to present my excuses. Back in June we went on a ten-day trip to the desert. It was an unusually cool and wet spring, and when we returned, the garden — with the exception of the tomatoes that had hardly grown at all — had literally morphed into a jungle. It was wild. Thick. Overgrown. Unruly. It was a many-tentacled thing, spilling out all over the place, a living green replica of my brain.

I tried to tame the mess, but it fought back like a wild animal that would not be broken. A week later I lopped a small piece off of the index finger on my left hand and spent the next six weeks pointing at nothing. Unlike a certain loveable alien botanist, my special finger did not come with a magical ability to revive dead marigolds or communicate with lost extra terrestrial brethren. It didn’t even glow. But no matter, despite my neglect everything (except the tomatoes) thrived and then some, most especially the weeds. What I really needed was a magical finger to make things not grow so voraciously, and a second to do something about those hapless tomatoes.

Tomatoes Piedmont
Eventually the tomatoes did produce just over 50 pounds of ripe fruit and several pounds of green (I am yet to weigh these).

In recalling these last months, another excuse for my unruly garden comes to mind. I tinkered. I bought a still and set to turning everything in the garden into a plant hydrosol. In some cases I let plants grow unruly on purpose because I required the wealth of plant material to distill. I also got into dyeing fabrics and threads with plants, a messy project if ever there was one. This too required letting plants go wild so that I’d have enough to use.

Goldenrod as Fabric Dye
Preparing a goldenrod (Solidago) dye bath. This made a beautiful soft yellow colour.

I have always been a dabbler, a mad scientist(ish), someone who messes about. I have long thought of my gardens as working gardens and labs in which I learn and experiment. Tinkering is serious play. It is messy, filthy work. For someone with an art degree, it seems contradictory to make aesthetics secondary and I have often criticized myself intensely when I have not been able to excel at both. This is who I am and who I am as a gardener. I have an appreciation for making things beautiful, but ultimately, I have a stronger drive to take things apart.

I make messes, on purpose, and then chastise myself for it afterward.

Margaret, the truth is I may never be a tidy gardener who maintains the sort of inspiring landscape that is shown and opened up for public viewing and scrutiny. In trying to make peace with my messiness, I have come to realize that this is a goal that I have internalized and what I believed I was supposed to be, but it is not what I desire. What I really want — what I aspire to most – is to be the sort of gardener who will invite you in and show you around happily no matter the conditions, and without apology or shame. And as a person, I want to be the selfish sort that Alice Walker describes, someone who can fully express her being, no matter the consequences. No matter how it contradicts what is expected of me.

A happy, little (big) mess.

How to Win May Sarton’s “Journal of a Solitude”

It wasn’t until my friend Margaret Roach ( and I set out to write this set of letters that we discovered a mutual affection for the work of writer May Sarton (here is an old post of mine and here is Margaret’s), specifically her book, Journal of a Solitude.

Margaret and I will be each be selecting 1 winner of this book at random (so that’s 2 winners total) at midnight on Thursday, November 7, 2013. The winner will be contacted by email.

All you have to do to enter is answer the following:

If my word/theme of the 2013 season is “messiness” (and Margaret’s over at A Way to Garden is “resilience”): What’s your word of the garden year? As always, you can just type in “count me in,” and that will count as an entry, too.

p.s. For some reason the song, Dance This Mess Around by the B-52′s came into my head as I was writing this letter. Hence the title.


Disclosure: Please note that Amazon links earn me a small commission, which are put towards purchasing books as giveaway prizes. Please see my current Publication Policy for more info.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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224 thoughts on “Dear Margaret, We Dance This Mess Around

  1. These words are lovely, lovely. They go right to the heart.

    If there’s a word that describes my garden this year, it’s “independent.” I had so little time to give to it this summer that I planted, mulched, and trusted that the plants would do their best according to their heritage (I was careful to select disease-resistant varieties). They were pretty much on their own! Aside from the cukes, they did very well for themselves, and that, in itself, was a good lesson.

  2. Where is the Facebook ‘love’ button, darn it?

    Since ‘resilience’ is already spoken for, my word for 2013 is ‘awakening.’

  3. Oh, I so enjoyed this piece! It spoke directly into my heart! I walk around my garden, so proud of what I have achieved- While others may look around and say “What chaos!”
    I don’t care, it’s my chaos. And I’m proud of it
    Loved your writing.

  4. My garden word is “effusion.”

    Synonyms are wild, wanton, willful and messy.

    Still, a place of peace for birds, chipmunks, raccoons, cats, deer and people.

    Judgement not permitted.

    Beautiful post. Thank you for writing it.

  5. My garden word is “envision.”
    I believe is was Tausha Tudor who mentioned in one
    of her books that it takes a good 12 years for a garden to
    take shape and come to life.
    It seems like a long wait but I am trying to be patient.

  6. “mixed bag” I had great crops of onions, leeks, garlic, tomatoes, and cucumbers but my lettuce, beans, peas, peppers, eggplant, and cabbage were total flops.

  7. The word for my garden this past year is Enjoyed. The more time I put in it, the more I seem to enjoy it. Getting my hands dirty, is a gift. Watching everything grow, is a gift. Just walking through it, is a gift. Not to say that it is not a mess, at times tho. But it’s my mess.

  8. My garden (as I can mostly kindly describe it) is exuberant … & I’m loving it that way more & more.

  9. I think my word for garden this year would be “native” as I have been trying to add more native plants to my yard/garden this year. (But I love your thoughts about “messy”…my garden is always messy…always there are always things that “I am going to do as soon as I have time”!!!)

  10. “Overtaken” is the word that describes my WIP garden. So many weeds have invaded from a nearby field that I have considered mowing it all down! I cannot keep up!

  11. evolving. As in, always. To rephrase the Mark Strand poem Keeping Things Whole:

    When I walk
    I part the garden
    and always
    the garden moves in
    to fill the spaces
    where my body’s been.

  12. Reborn. We bought an old farmhouse on three acres, where one woman lived for 50 years, growing vegetables and flowers. This summer I restarted the beauty she had nurtured for so long. May it reach full potential, even as the messiness settles in!

  13. My word is maximize.
    As in “get the most out of.”
    Maximize the harvests and the show of color.
    Maximize the opportunities for attracting birds.
    Maximize the chances to work in the cooler shade until it moves to another part of the yard.
    Maximize the mulch coverage with natural materials.
    Maximize the yard waste ingredients for the compost bins.
    Maximize the uses for the finished compost.
    Maximize the value of my plant dollars by propagation and seed collecting.

    My garden is always messy because I am only one person and can’t possibly stay ahead of all the chores. But, visitors are welcome any time and always say they learned a lot while here. A garden should reflect the personal tastes of the gardener, not the standards of the neighbors. I prefer a natural looking collection of plants that beckons to all sorts of creatures, “Come on in, no chemicals here.” Every year I see a brand new bug. Maximize your invitation to Mother Nature.

  14. My word is joyful. No matter how many weeds or unpicked raspberries , tomatoes, blueberries I see, the garden always makes me feel joyful. I see the heron on the banks of the pond where 1 clump of pickerel weed became an invasive mess that required many hrs. of digging and I feel joyful. I see the honeybees happily slurping the nectar from the last Sheffield mum and I feel joyful. I remember the beauty of the dahlias just a week ago before the frost came and feel joy.

  15. Recently 2 different people commented that I will obviouslty need to have a smaller garden next year since it was messy. Big deal. It fed my family. I had some gardens that were so soggy could not weed them or even walk in them for a month. they did get overtaken with weeds. One plot gave me 60 lbs of peas before that happened, I love the garden . It does get away from me. I have plots I do not know what to do with. How will I ever reclaim my asparagus? I would spend all my time outside if I could. But I can’t. People need rides. The house needs cleaning. In the spring & fall I have to go to work. Sigh. The lambsquarters and amaranth and dandelions were eaten with just as much enthusiasm as the other greens. My friends who have neat gardens never even get to enjoy them. So – it’s all good. I even like that row of flowers that was weeded. It’s a juxtaposition of values.

  16. My word of the year would most definitely be “quick”. There never seems to be enough time to get everything done leaving it a “mess”, sometimes both mentally and physically. As for the want to be the selfish sort, as you say, (I’ve not yet read the book but will look into it) selfish need not be a negative. I say, “You grow girl!” Be who you desire to be. Beautiful writing, thank you. Salute from a fellow ‘messy’ gardener.

  17. My garden—- late. Raspberries in late October. Wonderful Brussels sprouts chilling in the freeze at night. Over whelmed with kale. Under whelmed by the zucchini. Enough very late tomatoes to make four pints of tomato jam (using the squishy ripe fruit). They were late because I was late. I got everything in late. And I started early. So much for planning.

  18. This year, my garden was “Better” because last year it was a scorched dry fiasco.

    I came to the conclusion, along with a few neighbors that so long as we keep at it, so long as each year we have some small victories that keep us proud, in three or so decades, we’ll be awesome gardeners.

    The Naive Gardener

  19. please count me in!

    Gardens as such are to-come, so if anything that’s what my word would have to be.

  20. Hope. I think that’s the right word. When I finally crawled out from the blanket they call depression, I planted my garden on rented land. And then I left town for the summer to be a farmer in other people’s (much larger) gardens. And now it’s fall, and I’m watching the blanket come crawling back and trying to be ok with the mess in the garden and the mess in my kitchen and the mess in my mind, and I’m hoping and planning for land that I can fill with perennials and love.

  21. Autopilot. I love how my mess seems to stick in there until I can get to it again. Constant piddling and list making, yet never really getting anything done because some new caterpillar I’ve never seen shows up or something. This is why gardeners like us should stick together – we can easily nerd out in each others gardens without even seeing the mess.

  22. ‘Promising’, my first attempt at gardening inspired by you and i am so excited and hopeful that i will grow something and share it on a plate. Even if it all goes terribly wrong i am just happy that i am starting to learn and I’m determined to one day have a ‘messy’ flourishing garden like yours. Thanks!

  23. Adapt! adapt to the weather, adapt to the bugs, adapt to the dying or thriving, adapt to my aging body and adapt to my ever fickle mind. Gardening has always been about trying to change my environment, but I’ve discovered that it has changed me far more then I will ever be able to change it. So……adapt and be happy.

  24. Recovery: After the loss of my 23 year old son in March, and a back injury in June, my spirit, my body, and my garden have been in the process of recovery.

  25. Happenstance.

    Plants seed themselves down. Squirrels move bulbs. Perennials multiply. Some things flourish, others whither. It’s never boring.

  26. Expanding…where grass won’t grow, there’s always potential (with effort and trust) for a new bed of perennials, whether sun, shade, moisture, or drought tolerant!

  27. “Wanting”…….

    “Wanting” weeding,
    ” cultivating,
    ” watering
    ” deadheading
    ” pruning
    ” morning sunshine
    ” mid-day shade
    ” etc., etc., etc.
    ” “attention”

  28. Oh, my garden theme this year has unfortunately been “neglect.”

    My husband and I have had a very busy work schedule this fall, and I didn’t get a chance to pick the last of the peppers before the frost hit us in upstate, NY this week. Thank goodness for the farmers’ market!

  29. I’m mostly a flower pot gardener but my word for this gardening season would be SURPRISES. Wild violets profusely covering the lawn, deep magenta petunias that I was about to give up on in early summer which turned into the most beautiful, prolific petunia’s ever (they’re still blooming), cherry tomato plant showing up in the ivy bed (of course I left it just to see what it did. It is 9′ tall and still producing enough tomatoes for a salad-a-day), dragon wing begonia which started off as a 9″ hanging planter is now a 5′ x 5′ beauty blooming since it was planted in June, autumn clematis unexpectedly showing up on a daylily hill, front porch flower boxes full of purple pansies spilling up, out & over in every direction, and I just cut the last of the sweet peas to bring inside (Funny, I thought the ones I brought in two weeks ago would be the last).
    Yes, there were some disappointments but the good far outweighed the bad.

  30. Gratefulness. For the beauty and amazement of it all. It never fails to bring me up short on a daily basis.

  31. Abundance. Thanks to last year’s severe drought, there were fewer insect pests this year. Also after a forced rest last year, fruit and perenial vegetable plants excelled this year.

  32. Abandon…I abandoned my garden in April and May, and it flourished with abandon – producing the most healthy weeds I’ve ever seen – in places I’d never before seen them. (It forgave me as the season progressed).

  33. Minimalism. Just keeping things going at the two country properties I now own (yes, that’s one too many for a single woman, and I’m trying to sell the first). First time in at least a decade I have spent nothing – zero — on new plant material and avoided every nursery and catalog.

  34. Clean Green: 2013 has been the year of clutter clearing so as to adapt to the continual water shortage of the SW. Gone with the water hogs including my beloved roses, in with more waterwise colorful plantings with LESS maintenance. At nearly 60, I am thinking ahead as to how to maintain 2 acres in a less intense way allowing for more time to enjoy my hubby and two Turkish Van cats!

  35. New beginnings as we just planted a new garden on our family’s property. Very exciting to begin with a blank slate.

  36. My garden this year has been “Freewill”..Many things that have stood on their own through the years and continue to thrive on their own FREEWILL..Perennials I stick with and some annuals. New trees along the way have flurished.To see things return year after year and thrive on their own FREEWILL is a blessing to say the least. Sometimes our busy lives cause us to pay less attention to the garden..But I will never let a busy life cost me a cup of coffee in the morning or glass of wine in the evening to enjoy and savour the beauty of Mother Nature living around me. :)) LOVE T

  37. vibrational – this is my word of the year for everything. gardening, art-making and cooking have helped me read and speak vibrational language over the last few years, and it has provided a lot of relief.

  38. Many thoughts crossed my mind but my word would have to be “reward”. Whenever I walk around my garden or simply peek out a window it’s the “reward” of all the years of hard work that keep me going.

  39. Admiration. Having recently moved to Santa Fe from California where our garden grew in lush profusion, I have developed a deepening admiration for the high desert plants that now make up our landscape. They wave their flags of beauty despite drought, hail, snow, early frosts, wind and heat. Ole! I say to these intrepid plants.

  40. Fruitful
    This was my first year tending a small plot at a community garden. I was amazed how fruitful my garden was even in the sometimes trying growing season.

  41. “Firsts”. This was my grandson’s first time to help garden. He was so excited to watch the plants grow and help water and care for them. First time trying to grow different plants like corn and watermelon with minimal success. We’ll try again next year. It was still enjoyable to share the time.

  42. Transition – we have bought yet another old house (c. 1812) in the Berkshires and I am moving some of my favorite plants (lilacs, peonies, hydrangea) to their new abode.

  43. My word is Acceptance. To accept gratefully and gracefully whatever results my gardens give and to accept the failures as well. I only grow flowers and a few potted herbs and at most times, here in Ballston Spa, NY, that is a challenge. Fighting with bugs, critters and diseases has been a 30 year battle. I have found that by accepting what nature does rather than getting angry and frustrated, has made this gardening compulsion easier to bear.

  44. My word is switch. I am in the process of switching the site for my veggie garden. I used the lasagne method to compost sod in my side yard last fall and am working on the hardscape. My old veggie garden was next to the neighbor’s little almond tree when I bought this house 15 years ago. The almond tree is no longer little, and all my soil amendments seem to be adding to its height.

  45. Defeat ! That is the word to describe this year – the garden has won again, growing as it wants wherever it wants. I am humbled by my jungle.

  46. My word for the year is commitment….a solid, from the heart expression of my love for the bees, butterflies and birds who come to my garden for nourishment, rest and in the warmer months, a bath. While I create places of beauty for me, and grow good organic food I am always aware of those who share in my space and I have a commitment to remember them with full heart.

  47. Change.
    Change from mostly flowers to fruits and veggies.

    Change due to a need to spend less, and the joy of new discoveries.

  48. Disappointment. I added raised beds, grew many different heirloom tomatoes from seed, bubbled up fabulous compost tea, but planted too late and my harvest was meh. This was the year I probably put more effort into my garden than any other year, but the result was surprisingly lacking. Murphy’s Law is always at work. Better luck next year!

  49. different—with trees down last year, I had new areas of sun to play with. I moved a fence that was making it too hard to get out some stubborn grasses and reconfigured half of my garden. My daughter choose lots of flowers and got a section to plant all here own. All good changes.

  50. weedfull,
    this year I went away and come late for earlier weeding and I never had weeds ,so many and the highest ever,feeling weaker w/age do not help much,I’m hoping for better next year,I love my flowers ,w/the weeds or not

  51. Cannas! We dug and separated all seven beds. I counted 157 stems when I cut down the smallest, shadiest bed, and I can’t even guess how many 12-footers came out of the sunny bed in front of the house.

  52. congested — my garden has gotten too small and I’m wanting to move out of our townhouse and into a home with a private garden just for me and those I invite!

  53. My word for this gardening season,”versatile”. I had to keep switching my “to do” list to go along with the weather!

  54. Progression – I try to think of my garden as a progression along with myself – moving along trying to be the best it/I can be.

  55. Unpredictable. Why did my sugar snap peas decide to give me a half hearted supply rather than the usual abundance? How did my tomatoes manage to ignore my neglect of them because I can’t work outside on hot days and produce piles and piles of juicy tomatoes even when their supports collapsed?

  56. Persistence.
    It is so dry here in the Southwest. We are just plugging along, trying to mulch and devote water to the food producing plants.

  57. My word is “attentive”. This year I have learned to attend to my garden more closely and consequently see its daily changes so that I water when needed and cut back when things become overgrown.

  58. Bees!

    This is my first year keeping a hive of honey bees and it has caused me to notice all the different bees in my garden and their many interesting activities.

  59. Unconditional…without conditions or reservations; absolute.

    I was thinking about the Love of God. He loves me without condition; I can be who I am. I want to love that way. It gives me peace. I know its a lofty thought but I really believe it applies to accepting all of life in all its messiness.

  60. Acceptance. I have such plans, occasionally even manage to implement some of them, and then Mother Nature says “I have a better idea.” So a huge snowfall crushes the limber pine, or howling winds take down a 100-yr-old red maple, and the area that used to be shady is suddenly in full sun. The new perennial that was supposed to be deer-resistant . . . isn’t. Or the deer didn’t get the memo yet. But then I find volunteers popping up that are even better than what I had envisioned. Some of them are from dormant seeds of past failures. A mother fox raises a litter of adorable kits under the ruins of the shed flattened by the fallen maple. I don’t have mice in the basement (or the rat snakes that also come in after them), because the fox family is doing such a good job of controlling the mouse population. I realize I am only Mother Nature’s lowly assistant in this business of garden design, and that’s OK.

  61. My word is FRAGRANCE- I am amazed every day & any time of day when I take a tour of my garden areas. It might be lemon balm crushed by a missed step, lavender in the breeze or cilantro I pinched just to breath in the wonderful herb. LOVE at first scent!

  62. Wistful – I have had a year full of challenges with my aging, ill parents and have not had much opportunity to enjoy my garden.

  63. Again-you know the drill, we put the garden to bed yet “again” believing that spring will come “again”.

  64. Wild, as in wildlife (deer, rabbits, chipmunks, and squirrels and weeds gone wild. I retired in February and this was the year I was going to get the gardens in order, yeah right! Maybe next year.

  65. My word for the garden this year is puttering. Arthritis has slowed me down a bit, but I’ve discovered the joy of puttering and slowing down has helped me see new things.

  66. New beginnings.
    My gardens have been neglected over the last few years and I spent this summer reviving them. Also I have new raised beds for my vegetable garden. I can hardly wait!

  67. Thank you for this post. It is beautiful and I am going to share it!
    I think my word this year is ‘grass’ as I have carved a garden space out of the lawn and am constantly trying to fight off/coexist with the grass that is creeping back in.

  68. Gayla I can relate to the messiness theme as it has been my life. But this year was the year of the absent gardener. Due to work commitments, my husband, the reluctant garden helper, did the bulk of work I asked him to do (watering, clean up, fertilizing, picking and even making pickles). I will have to check out the book whether I win or not…looking forward to reading this book and thanks for having this wonderful giveaway.

  69. evolving…that’s my garden. It changes as I learn, and as the neighbor trees grow to give my garden more shade.

  70. Revelation – plants that I planned to love but now, I don’t love them. An enormous love of basil in all its variety. The importance of fragrance in my garden. Working in my garden banishes most of my headaches.

  71. Neglected, just too much on my plate. I am excited to start anew next year, that is the wonderful part of gardening, there is always a new year to start over with new goals.

  72. Evolving! I’ve just started with a few plants this year at our new house, but I’m sure that even when I think I have everything in its place, I will constantly want to try new plants each year. Always unfinished and dynamic.

  73. Moments after 35 years I’ve learned to relish those moments when plantings thrive, like their neighbors, and even offer up food, flower or fragrance.

  74. Garden word: Rowdy. Love the idea of using plants as dye…I’m going to explore this more-would love to dye fabric to use in my quilt projects.

  75. Rejuvenation! Hurricane Sandy crushed a great deal of my garden, particularly a border I had labored over for 25 years where a Hydrangea “Limelight” was reduced to one sad piece of trunk prostrate on the ground, and a pin oak that was nearly 100 years old and 100? high was uprooted. But more sun on the garden gave me figs for the first time and the Limelight sprang back and by August was 6? high and as wide, covered with the biggest and most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen!

  76. Wildness. My garden also grew into a jungle even without the help (or lack of) a magic finger. Until I realized the jungle was a thing of beauty that gardeners strive to achieve, I thought wow, what a mess! Now I say look at this wildness in all its glory!

  77. I really appreciate your post. I’m still learning to garden and your words really resonated with me and inspired me. Messiness is truly the word when it comes to learning how to garden, but my word is Diligence, because that is what defines my personal journey as a gardener.

  78. Self-esteem. This year most of my plants looked beautiful and I finally say YES, I can do it! with minimum space and unfavorable urban location!

  79. Survival. I love the idea of having a gardening theme. Next season it will be Preparation (for change). I planted mostly vegetables in a small condo garden that probably broke some condo association rule. It was my first time starting all of plants from seeds, which SURVIVED and my husband took to calling “the children.” The spring and early summer was WET and cool, and the tomato plants actually lived through a very late transplanting after I made the mistake of putting the seedlings in pots that were too small. The kale also made it through a caterpillar infestation. Picking them off my hand and squashing them was quite the bonding experience with my daughter.

  80. “Haven”… 2013 was a difficult year for me, but every time I felt that anger, grief, confusion would overwhelm me, I found a haven of regeneration in my garden. Now as the garden is dying back, I’m almost happy to imagine that the troubles of the past year are being laid to rest. Maybe my word for 2014 will be “rebirth”.

  81. I’m teaching my daughter’s grammar lesson and cannot think of a word because I’m distracted by helping verbs and sentence fragments. But I’d still like to be counted in, please. So “count me in, please!”

  82. Disappointing is my word. Count me in.. My front garden doesn’t get a lot of sun, not enough to add color with sun-loving flowers. I keep trying every year, though… it’s always a challenge. It’s a continuous learning experience.

  83. Transitional … am leaving behind the garden location of the past 8 years and going to ? … and life unfolds … the one anticipated gardening certainty is that something will be growing somewhere … probably in a uniquely new way …

  84. Wonderful garden year here in Missouri. My word for 2013 season is Nourishing. Applying my compost to gardens and reaping wonderfulness in produce and flora.
    Enjoying your writing.

  85. Obsession – I joined a round robin tomato swap early, planted too many tomatoes, cared for them and distributed the fruit to neighbors in summer, picked the green ones before frost and still have them in my basement. Now I am still looking up tomatoes on-line and fiddling around on the computer. I have too many violas too.

  86. My word for the year, “endurance – the ability to endure an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way”, thanks to health reasons that mostly kept me out of the garden. Happy to say: I’m back !

  87. My word for my garden this year would be overzealous. I started working at a nursery this year and brought home WAY to many throw away plants…just couldn’t watch them get tossed out.

  88. Experiment! I planted celery, kale and spring broccoli raab for the first time this year. The celery ended up sort of tough but it’ll be good for soup. The kale was buggy all summer and just now is looking better and the broccoli raab was the best of the three.

  89. Surrender.
    (I tore a ligament and fractured 5 bones in my foot in June, and just couldn’t do much at all. I just had to let the garden do its own wildly chaotic thing, without much supervision or intervention by me. So I can relate to your mess! (These words and comments are fantastic.)

  90. SERENITY! My garden is my serenity, both while digging and planting and while enjoying the results and surprises. It gives back!

  91. My word is “new”. This was my first season in a new home and new garden. I was able to expand and experiment. I grew and canned things I haven’t before. I was wonderful!

  92. My word is “first!” I’ve barely made attempts at gardening before, I’ve killed a month old fern in the house already, but I really made a go of my vegetable garden this summer and it really inspired me. I built a lasagna garden for my vegetables last spring and have already made three raised gardens using the same principles this fall–for flowers this time!

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