In the past month or two, several new clients have expressed the hope that by hiring me they might avoid making mistakes in the garden. While I am flattered by the idea that I don’t commit gardening errors, these optimistic comments led me to reflect on the relationship between mistake-making and the practice of gardening, and brought to mind Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s observation that “life is one continuous mistake”.
For me, the practice of gardening is always an experiment, and one that is full of mystery and adventure. Why is it that I successfully nurture hundreds of flowering perennials, but when I tuck a tomato plant into their midst as often as not it produces only a handful of plump fruits? Why do the deer persist in devouring my “deer resistant” salvias and penstemon despite my best efforts at deterrence? And what on earth killed my entire herd of compost producing worms? These and hundreds of other questions intrigue and perplex me as I stumble my way through the process of tending my garden. There is always some new failure to contend with, a fresh problem to solve. And if I have learned anything from my garden it is this: that if I can just slow down long enough to investigate my garden mistakes, they will teach me far more than all the splendid abundance of my successes.