This is such an honest little handbook for the overwhelmed gardener. We don't always have the time, good health, or energy for gardening responsibilities, but we keep bringing in more of everything and with each comes more tasks. I've been wondering for quite some time if I've bitten off more than I can chew in my current garden. The author has gone through the same process and helps us make our gardens appropriate for our current (and future) needs.
When do we have enough trees, shrubs, and plants? How do we know if we have too much and what do we do about it? This book addresses in general and very specific ways to control what goes in, or stays in, our gardens, so we can continue to enjoy them without being overwhelmed.
After reading this book, a weight lifted off my shoulders, because she recommends that for certain tasks we get help, as much help as we can afford. Whew! I had felt so guilty not to be able to do it all. After all, it's my garden! The best part of it is, she talks about her various helpers over the years and their different approaches and what she has learned from each of them. I love this quote about one of her helpers, "she knew how to hit the high spots and keep us up to speed." The author is a garden perfectionist, which isn't always the best strategy for gardening.
One very simple example is how she has learned to use lists, a practical idea for me. "When you feel overwhelmed by all the things that cry out to be done in the garden, making a list can be useful." Actually, she has several lists, including a daily list, which she tells us to keep short because we have too many other obligations already, and a master list, which we can chomp off items on as we have time, rather than stand around in the garden wondering what we could get done in the 30 minutes we have available today. Great idea. Her solutions are practical, and that's what I need in my life.
The fact that the author is a perfectionist began to work against her over time. She kept expanding her garden, but expected to be able to keep it at the same standards she had when it was smaller. That didn't work for her, so she learned how to bring her garden dreams into line with the "realities" of her life. She eventually came to the conclusion that something had to go. That's the meat of this book, the process she goes through to decide what, when, and how to start simplifying. For example, she says, "The greater the variety of perennials you grow, the more work your border will entail...each one demands something---staking, deadheading, cutting back, or division, either to ensure good flower production or to restrain its spread." She also teaches us that if we have one genus or species monopolizing our time and dominating our garden, we need to think about reducing its number.
Then she gives the standards a perennial must meet in order for it to remain, or be added to, her garden as it fits her life right now. She gives specifics, which is very helpful!
One of my favorite and possibly the most helpful to me is, "...it was cheaper to buy shredded bark mulch by the yard, have it delivered, and hire an able-bodied young man to put it down than for the two of us to spend all summer hauling three-cubic-foot bags around the garden." I think I like that idea. I'll probably save enough money on tools and medical expenses <grin> to pay for that extra help.
I love the "Pick Your Battles" section as well as the "Accepting Imperfection" chapter.
She tells us just what plant categories she has found that practically take care of themselves and helps us explore new and different ways to garden.
I have enjoyed this book and will benefit from it as I try to cram way too much into my life. At least I can work intelligently to create a garden that is appropriate for my needs.