Grow Write Guild #2: Dream Garden


Memory is a gardeners real palette; memory as it summons up the past, memory as it shapes the present, memory as it dictates the future.” – from My Garden (Book) by Jamaica Kincaid

Hello writers. Our first writing prompt was meant to jog memory and take us back to our beginnings (or somewhere nearish), back to where we have come from as gardeners. Memory and past experiences have a place of distinction in our gardens. It doesn’t always dictate the outcome, but memory (conscious and unconscious) folds into our gardening practice, building a basis for why and sometimes how we garden, and infecting the many choices that we make.

I considered guiding us further down this path, but in the end decided that it makes more sense to come back to the past intermittently rather than sinking into it all at once.

Instead, with the winter behind our backs (or very nearly in some cases), it is time to look to the future, or at least, the fantasy future that we desire. I don’t know about you, but I’ve just spent several months dreaming about my garden. What will I grow? What changes will I make? Where will this growing season take me? Lately, I’ve been marking up the calendar with plant sale dates and anticipating all of the new plants I will be bringing home in the next few months. I have enough springtimes behind me now to know how it will play out. Some plants will be planned for, but others will be the product of pure impulse and spontaneous desire. I think of these as Id plants. “OH, I must have that!

Sometimes these Id plants come home and take me and my garden in new directions. Other times they are a disaster (and a predictable one) because they are in direct conflict with the practicalities of the real garden that I have. But sometimes in these spontaneous choices lies the key to something that I need. Something that I have not brought into conscious thought.

Grow Write Guild Prompt #2: Describe your fantasy garden.

We all have fantasy gardens that play somewhere in our thoughts, but how often do we stop and put that fantasy to paper? I don’t. Sure, there have been times when I have visited a garden that made me sit up and take note. There have been times when I have walked into a space and felt like I could move in and be happy there forever. But when it comes to the realities of gardening there are always so many limitations and practicalities to consider… the climate, the size of the space, the environment, the food that I need to grow, the amount of work that I can reasonably take on, other uses for what is already limited space, and of course, always, always, always at the foreground: the impairment of a very limited budget.

Perhaps, too, there is something else that gets in the way of fully imagining what my own personal Versailles might be. I wonder if there is also in there somewhere the fear that imagining something so unattainable will lead to an unbearable sense of disappointment and dissatisfaction with my very real garden?

I shall never have the garden I have in mind, but that for me is the joy of it; certain things can never be realized and so all the more reason to attempt them. A garden, no matter how good it is, must never completely satisfy.” – from My Garden (Book) by Jamaica Kincaid

And then I found these lines and it made me realize that we gardeners are always striving for that fantasy, whether we are conscious of it or not. So why not wonder aloud? Maybe it will help us come to interesting choices this gardening season and we will find ourselves taking new and surprising directions.

Further Questions & Notes:

I tried to write further questions and notes this time around, but ultimately found that they all, in some way, introduced practicalities into the equation. This prompt isn’t about the practical at all, although you are free to bring that into it if you want. Instead, when it comes to imagining your fantasy garden, try not to hold back or limit yourself. This exercise has nothing to do with how much money you have, where you live now, or real life. It’s pure fantasy. This is the garden that you would make if you could do ANYTHING.

The Grow Write Guild is a creative writing club for people who love to garden. Everyone is welcome to participate! Click over to the Grow Write Guild FAQ to learn more about it.

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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50 thoughts on “Grow Write Guild #2: Dream Garden

  1. Loved this topic and really thought I would have a dream garden idea. Funny, I guess I am at that stage in life where I am content with what I have and just lucky to have it.

    • I love your dream garden and everything in it! I’m trying to make a cool herb garden myself, but haven’t got it to awesome yet. Tons of birdhouses and bees. The bees will love the wisteria! Nice pictures to help illustrate! You’ve really got me dreaming now!

  2. GOOD ONE Gayla!

    After believing I’d been able to fool myself that because I plant other vegs besides tomatoes that my obsessiveness for them has been successfully obfuscated and doesn’t really show … I hesitate because I torally know now where this assignment (as in private investigative report back) is going to go … down a PRETTY + SMELLY [in a good way] rabbit hole of flowers – I’ve been holding the lid down on this pandora’s box. A real fantasy garden won’t just be able to be limited to petals of the edible variety – GAH! SoOo – we have between 2 weeks and forever on this one if I read you correctly – right!

  3. Now this is a very timely prompt because I’m mulling over a question posed by @emmathgardener about what I would do if money were no object and I’ve already been constructing the fantasy garden in my mind as a result. This all

  4. Sorry – something weird was happening with trying to comment back there.

    This allows me to answer your prompt and Emma’s question in one go – result! I’ll put something up next week :)

  5. The Spy Garden fantasy vegetable/flower/herb garden: Lots of good bugs but no squash bugs or other destructive pests. No deer. Last frost date March 1. Rain barrels with drip irrigation. A three-tiered fountain/birdbath. At least 3 “fort” areas for kids: a bean teepee, some type of tunnel and then maybe a mini lookout tower with a little ladder: all 3 forts completely covered and overgrown with beans, peas and other edibles. A comfortable sitting area in the shade. Lots of berries and fruit trees. Pure black dirt. Paper lanterns and other whimsical type lighting so you could enjoy the garden at night. Separately, a huge glass greenhouse that was more like a sun room attached to the house with lemon trees in gigantic pots. Gardening is already pretty fantastic so the dreams are definitely within (eventual) reach (except the frost date, bugs and deer!)

  6. I’ve been creating dream gardens in my head for as long as I can remember. They change as I change (which is what a garden should do, I suppose) but add to the equation that money is no object and I can’t pass on writing down my ideas! It’s supposed to rain here the next few days and I was going to catch up on housework but instead I shall plan my ultimate dream garden! Thanks for this great idea, Gayla!

  7. I got a kick out of your line: “with the winter behind our backs”! You sure aren’t in Alberta – as I sit here writing the outline of my next gardening ebook – April 7th & another 15cm of new snow. Will this stuff ever go away & let me get out and get my hands dirty?

  8. This is much more difficult than I thought it would be, after all, a dream garden should be fairly easy as we are always trying to visualise our dream garden as we work in our garden and think about the next thing we will plant there. I like my gardens to be Eco friendly so there would be no mowed lawn and there would be tanks for the rainwater, you would move through the garden along narrow paths made from old stones or bricks, nothing too modern or perfect. The kitchen garden would have herbs and greens and tomatoes and would be near he back door, nothing too lined up or orderly. A few flowers and rose bushes would add some interest and attract bees to the garden too. Beyond that would be a hedge or perhaps grevilleas or proteas. I always like to grow them and they do well here in Australia. Through the hedge you could catch glimpses of the garden beyond which would be a rainforest garden with lots of orchids and elkhorns clinging to the trees (which would be a mix of eucalypts and palms.) there would have to be a pond in there too, I love to keep fish and grow various water plants. Somewhere in all this chaos I would have to have a paved area with a seat under an arbor covered in wisteria, and a cactus garden, but I don’t know how it would all fit together. See, I said it was hard to imagine this dream garden.

  9. Hi! So I want to be a part of this but don’t have a website! How can I post my stories without one? Thanks! Tiff

    • You can post stories that are just a few lines in the comments here, but for longer stories that you want to make public, I would suggest somewhere like a Facebook page, Tumbler, etc.

    • Hi Gayla, sorry I wrote my whole response on here, I only did it as my website is not about gardening so t didn’t seem appropriate to post there. I really enjoy this series, thank you!

  10. I just wanted to pop in and say that I love this topic, and have been dreaming up gardens for ages. I have completed the writing assignment, but haven’t figured out how (or if I want) to share it publicly. However, I did want to note my participation here, and say that I’m enjoying this new feature on the blog, and I’m looking forward to more topics!

  11. Well, I’m a little late to the party, but here’s my response. My dream garden is a little muddled right now, as I’m working through some research about owning property/agricultural systems and it’s impact on society, and wondering if a garden all to myself is what I really need.

  12. I am a little behind the times but finally put to words my dream garden, here:

    I can’t believe how many people have taken up the challenge and hope to read their posts over the next few days.

    Love this idea! It really did challenge me as I concentrated on writing as opposed to using visuals. Thanks, Gayla!

  13. (I’m not sure I put the link to my post in the right spot –I commented on your response, Gayla — so I hope it’s ok if I also put it here.)

    Finally done. So easy to dream. So hard to write. Perhaps because I wanted this little essay to be “perfect” — after all, it’s about my dream garden.

    It may not be perfect but it is true — every revision (and there were a few) contained the same list of elements I deem essential.

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