Sunday, July 23, 2017

Letting Go: The Perfection Paradigm


Part of my pollinator garden

It's no small thing to plan a Garden Bloggers Fling, to invite 90 people over to see your garden and organize a three and a half day event while working full time. It took three years. Life kept getting in the way and the task was monumental.

It was my own Mt Everest.


Seed grown 'Denver Daisies' rudbeckia

I spent two years analyzing my garden and redesigning the weak spots only to redesign them again and again. I wanted everything to be perfect or as close to perfect as I could hope for. But that didn't happen.


I love buttons and birdhouses so I had to have these!

The dogs' pee burned yellow circles into the grass and a few of my annuals took their damn sweet time growing large and lush.


I had hoped the metal rods and plastic tubing, which adds weightless surface area for the vines to grow on, as well as the dead wood, would be covered by the Fling. Photo by Diana Kirby

The Ugly Arbor, which had previously harbored an invasive but innocently purchased Japanese honeysuckle, was laid bare, the honeysuckle roots removed to stop its spread. I left the wood and started an annual vine from seed during December but that, too, wouldn't grow fast enough. Hops planted with the hope they'd scramble to the top in a mad dash fueled by fertilizer, climbed the sides with the languor of a lazy drunk. The arbor stood in contrast to the buffet of perennials at its feet, naked and thin, its secrets revealed. I cringed and sighed and walked away. 


A view of  part of the garden that includes a tiny bit of the river bed

Plants died and I replaced them just weeks before the event. Newly purchased shrubs bought the winter before succumbed to leaf blight and I mercilessly cut them down, replaced by 'Little Lime' hydrangea I was assured would thrive in my dry shade. I didn't care. As long as they were alive for the Fling, I was happy. I dug a hole and stuck them in. An important clematis was uncooperative and the anemones took over again. I couldn't find the ferns. 


A search and rescue mission uncovered several ferns but there are still a few that are missing. Photo by Late to the Garden Party 

In my frenzy and exhaustion, I gave up and decided it was all good enough. It was not perfect. I could not even begin to compete with the other professionally designed gardens on the tour so I just let go. 


The back steps and part of my extensive container garden. 

I had a beer and then another and thought. "F*ck it." Two days before the Fling, I ignored the garden and went to see one of my favorite bands, instead. 

A bit of my funky garden art

90 bloggers came to my house. They loved the Ugly Arbor and posted pictures of it on their blogs, while I cringed and sighed and looked away. They said it was whimsical and clever so I took a second look and agreed. No one stepped in any hidden dog poop or asked why the grass was dying. They took pictures of everything and told me how much they loved my garden. I smiled and believed them because I could see it on their faces. 


They took my picture and I cringed again when I saw how exhausted I was, my eyes mere slits in a puffy, sleep deprived face. Then I took a second look and saw pure joy at having done what I was told I couldn't do. So I just let go. Sometimes good enough is enough.

64 comments:

  1. Oh Tammy. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to host a Fling and open my garden to the bloggers as well. I'd need a caterer's size bottle of Xanax. I don't think I could do it. Your garden was fun and funky and an extension of your wonderful personality, which is what I think a private garden should be. You did a fabulous hosting job!

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    1. Thanks so much, Alison! It was a personal challenge and part of that was knowing I'd be forced to let go of always feeling that the garden was almost but not quite ready for visitors other than close friends. It also forced me to get serious about fixing some of the disaster areas. I'm very glad I did it.

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  2. I was going to comment on your FB link but what they heck, I'll comment here instead. Girl...I KNOW YOUR PAIN! Scott Weber and I can completely sympathize. Bu you know what? None of us. And I mean none of us! Saw those things you saw, the "imperfections"...your garden was perfect, and perfectly you. Thank you for letting us visit. And my favorite part? Your back steps and all those wonderful containers gathered around. I'd love to sit on those steps every evening and drink a glass of wine...

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    1. I sit on those steps every day and just enjoy a cup of coffee or wine and enjoy the garden. Thanks for all the love, Loree. I wish you could come back and join me! We are all our own worst critics, for sure.

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  3. We were awed and honored. You'll no doubt tire one day of our endless gratitude and praise, but it's true.

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    1. Thanks, Vicki!! I was determined to make sure everyone felt taken care of and that their trust in me was well placed. :o)

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  4. It's weird that so many of us look at our gardens and see nothing but the messes or the mistakes or the empty spots. We don't look at our friends, our pets, or the children in our lives and do that - or at least, not often. So why do we kick ourselves over our garden's imperfections? Right now, I'm having a hard time seeing anything but the pink and brown fuzz covering my back garden - it's crazy as that fixation is keeping me from enjoying the pretty things that are there. We all need to shake off the unrealistic expectations set by magazines and other media and focus on enjoying our spaces. I hope that's what you're doing now, while lying in your hammock. Your garden is wonderful - just like you!

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    1. Thanks, Kris! You're exactly right about not focusing on our friends 'imperfections'. If my friends were all 'perfect' what boring people they'd be! How wonderful it was to finally see my garden through someone else's eyes!

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  5. I know exactly what that feels like, having done it before myself, and I always *especially* admire those Fling hosts who can pull it off. Kudos to you! It was a treat to see your lovely garden, Tammy. And as a garden owner, isn't it liberating to realize that visitors generally see the good stuff, not all the plants that aren't as big and fluffy as we'd planned, etc.? And by the way, who told you you couldn't pull this off, because the advisory committee and all the bloggers who plunked down their registration fees had TOTAL confidence in you. No matter - I'm glad YOU knew you could. Pam/Digging: penick.net

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    1. I do remember how excited everyone was that I was planning the 2017 Fling so thanks for the reminder. :o) But I knew I could do it and that's what matters! I was surprised by how much everyone loved the river bed. Maybe I was just too used to seeing it.

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  6. Oh Mother of (Snap)Dragons, you pulled it off. In spades! And, regardless of what you thought you looked like, the rest of us saw a collected, organized, capable, incredible gardener and host. You have my undying admiration, both for the Fling planning, and for your amazing pollinator garden. I'm so glad you took on the challange of adding your garden to the itinerary. It was most definitely a highlight!

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    1. Thanks!! Once the ball was rolling, I was pretty chill. :o) I wanted everyone to see a garden designed by a Regular Person so mine fit the bill. It is definitely packed with pollinators!

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  8. From all reports, you did an incredible job of coordinating this year's fling! Like everything you do, it was fabulous and fun. I'm only sorry I wasn't able to be there to see for myself your wonderful garden and experience your amazing planning skills. Oh girl, if you can coordinate a school year for all your kids, you could certainly pull this off! We're always our own worst critics. I hope you get to take a nice month-long nap before plunging back into work!

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    1. I wish you'd been there! It was a field trip for grown ups. I've spent the rest of the summer doing absolutely nothing. It's been awesome! :o)

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  9. Tammy, it was a real treat to come to your garden and you were the perfect hostess on the day... for the whole Fling in fact. We are always our own worst critics of our own gardens because we spend our time lost in the detail. It's good you got the chance to see the delight your garden brings to others. Enjoy the summer!

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    1. Thanks, Michelle! It was good to see the garden through another's eyes. I think I needed that.

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  10. OMG - you saw imperfections??? All I saw was total gorgeousness. I can only imagine how much work it took to make it look perfect, but perfect it was.

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    1. Thanks! All the work comes in the fall and spring and then I let it take care of itself, mostly. It is a lot of work but it beats going to the gym!

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  11. Everything looks beautiful. Now, take a well earned rest and just enjoy all of your gardening efforts. :-)

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  12. It was more than good enough, Tammy, it was a delightful space for critters and humans. The minute we stepped off the bus, I knew we were in pollinator heaven and when we circled to the back it was confirmed. I wanted to stay longer, sit with you and talk about your garden, take more pictures of bumbles and check out your plant combos. Thank you showing us a grand time. xo

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    1. Thanks! That would have been wonderful! I wish we'd had more time, too.

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  13. You remind me of what I've said when someone compliments me on my garden, "Thanks, but all I see are the flaws." Your garden was abuzz with wildlife and admiring garden bloggers. And I loved your ugly arbor!

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    1. Sometimes what we need are new eyes, not a new landscape. I like the functionality of the arbor and am developing a new appreciation for the bones of it. :o)

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  14. Loved seeing your garden Tammy. It was alive with creative combinations of plants and interjections of your personality. I wondered at how you could manage it to look so perfect and be organizing the Fling itself.

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    1. Thanks, Susie! I tended the garden when I got home from work each day. It's well established and been tweaked the previous fall so I just needed to keep an eye on the weeds and vigorous reseeders.

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  15. As they all said, you and your garden is gorgeous. You couldn't have done anything better. You deserved to sit back and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Your garden shows your passion. It also shows that no one is perfect but everyone is beyond beautiful in their own way. Big hugs.

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    1. Thanks! The yellow dog pee circles really bugged me but there wasn't anything I could do about it. As soon as I put down new sod, they went over and peed on it. I need pee-less dogs!

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  16. I stepped in dog poo, saw the yellow spots, was appalled by all the dead spaces in the garden, and that arbor -- I thought-- "Sweet Mother of Pearl, what the hell is that?"
    NOT!!! You rocked it Tammy, every inch of the garden was lovely, the fling was wonderful, and you- my dear- were a welcoming hostess with your great sense of humor. Everyone had a great time.

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  17. From the very beginning, when you first started posting about the Fling, I was just in awe of how organized you were, Tammy--and all while teaching full-time! Shoot, when I was still teaching, all I managed to do was plop a few annuals in a small little flowerbed each spring. I have a quote on my Pinterest board that says something like, "A friend is one who overlooks your broken fence and admires all the flowers in your garden." From all the photos I've seen, your garden is beautiful, and your friends had too much to admire to see anything you might think was an imperfection. Besides, perfect is boring:)

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    1. Thanks, Rose! Perfect is boring and so very ephemeral. Staying organized was the only way to stay sane!

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  18. Your garden was amazing and filled with lovely vignettes and focal points. It was clever, creative, and colorful. And I was in awe of the whole Fling package, soup to nuts. You're amazing and I had a fabulous time!

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  19. We're always hardest on our own gardens. We see all the stuff that is "wrong". No one else sees it that way though. No one. When I first saw your Ugly Arbor I thought, "Oh, what a great idea to plant sparsely so the cool design shows through.". Gardening is not a competitive sport. Opening your garden to a crowd takes a crap load of work. Kudos to you for pulling it off. A+ for you, Tammy!

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    1. I like your perspective on the arbor. I never thought about it like that!

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  20. I often see that gardens are a reflection of the gardeners and visa versa. You and your garden are absolutely charming and delightful! Gardening is like life, a journey of ups and downs and successes and failures. Your Fling was a huge success and so is your garden. I can't even imagine having 5 people come see my garden let alone 90! Thank you for all your energy, creativity and effort to make the #gbfling2017 a fabulous and refreshing vacation! Happy you are now stepping back and enjoying reflecting on it all! HUGS

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    1. Hugs right back to you, Laurin! Thanks for all the love! :o)

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  21. Not being a gardener myself, I am in constant awe of you, your hard work, your extensive knowledge of plants, growing cycles, seedlings, rain gardens, pollinators, and the like. Knowing you as well as I do, I am not surprised that The Fling was a HUGE success. I know that the only person to see anything other than unadulterated splendor in your oasis is you. You are an incredible person, gardener, and friend. I am so very proud of the hard work you did, and even more so, the fruits of your labor. ��

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  22. Your garden is as charming and welcoming as you are! Thank you for all your care and attention to details to make the Fling such a memorable experience. It was absolutely a success :)

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    1. Thanks, Cat! It was so great to finally meet you!

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  23. You are a Flingstress Deluxe and I loved your garden.No need to worry about the dog pee--real gardeners don't even bother to look at the lawn! Thanks to you and your team for a great event.

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  24. My god. You deserve a medal just for offering to host this extravaganza! Besides, I'd give my left arm to look half as good as you do exhausted.

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    1. It was a metric shit ton of work but also a lot of fun and worth the extra effort. It was a labor of love to a very big baby! Keep your arm! I got lucky with that pic!

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  25. I have had groups come to see my garden and it is always nerve wracking, no matter how beautiful your garden may be. In your case, your garden was a Fling highlight - especially as it was more like a "normal" suburban house where they typical person might live. Your garden really stands out as an oasis of beauty.

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    1. I love that you consider me 'typical'. That speaks highly of your choice of friends. No wonder I like you so much! I had no idea I was a highlight! Thanks, Jason! :o)

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  26. I love how you illustrated this post with pictures other garden bloggers took. It's fascinating to see how others see your garden. And it all looks beautiful to me :)

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    1. It has been very interesting to see the garden through another set of eyes! I really needed that!

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  27. I'm thrilled to hear it was such a success, but I expected nothing less. What an achievement, and how lovely it all looks, ninety people walking around my garden would freak me out. You look wonderful, love, LOVE your T shirt, you do make me laugh. I have missed you and your posts this year so hopefully we all get you back now. Congratulations, you deserve it.xxx

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    1. I love that shirt, too! I added the word 'Snap' with a pink permanent marker. I'd been dying to work that joke into a gathering of gardeners. It feels good to be missed! I'll be back on a more regular basis soon!

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  28. Tammy, You, your garden and the Fling were absolutely marvelous! I adored your garden and all the special touches that make it yours. Your garden is livable, teeming with pollinators and birds and a place where I could plop down and have a cool drink and enjoy all the activity. Imperfections are what make a garden real and they are the best gardens.

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    1. Awwww, thanks! :o) Then mine was super real!

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  29. The whole Fling experience was amazing. I loved your garden - I loved the "hug" design, and the river bed, and the annuals. I was deeply impressed by your powers of organisation (as you now know from experience, I can be a little bit absent-minded...). But you know what? I think your ability to say "F*** it" is part of the appeal. I think it's a very healthy approach to gardening, and to life, to be able to say, OK, enough, it is what it is. I think people pick up on that more relaxed vibe, and they enjoy your garden more because of it.

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    1. It IS a giant hug!! "It is what it is' is a huge part of my mental approach to a lot of things. Hard core realism keeps me sane and I knew the garden looked good. I was just worried that everyone else would see all the weird spots that I kept seeing. Thanks for the love!

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  30. Wow Tammy, I can forgive the months of no posting if you've been tied up with the Fling! I can also be obsessive about wanting the garden to look perfect but I've found that actually, people don't notice and even if you told them, they wouldn't care because the rest of it looks fantastic - as I'm sure yours did too!

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    1. Dude, I have been crazy busy and pulled in too many directions at once! I am way behind on blogging or visiting blogs but I'll be back!

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  31. Your hard work paid off, and we are always far too critical of our projects. I see every weed in the garden, but visitors see the over them with kind compliments.

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  32. I so enjoyed seeing other bloggers' photos of The Fling! I was sorry that I couldn't come along. I love that you gave up and saw your favourite bands - a woman after my own heart. Needless to say, your garden is beautiful and that t-shirt is fab. As are you! Well done! Now that's over... what next? ;-)

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! I do have a big project in the works but I won't be the one doing the work. I get to do the fun design work while a contractor does the laboring. I'm having a room in my house turned into an indoor potting shed/greenhouse/hide away. It won't be done til the fall but it will be featured on the blog as soon as it's done!

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  33. Congratulations! We gardeners always seem to judge our gardens by that illusive garden of our dreams. Reality falls short; we see all the imperfections, all the might have beens, all the dead stuff pulled out in frustration. But visitors see only the beauty that exists! Your garden is gorgeous. You have earned a rest and time to bask in the praises that come your way. Well done!

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