Perfect Garden: Promise and Propaganda

Managing expectations of the perfect garden is one of the greatest challenges a new gardener faces. We sigh happily over lush green pictures in garden supply catalogs and upscale home design magazines.

Versailles Gardens

Looks a lot like the Versailles Gardens, no? That’s because it is.

Everywhere we turn, we see a picture perfect garden beset with koi ponds and white wrought iron tea tables and, of course, matching chairs and a full ice tea pitcher with glistening slices of home grown lemon.

Carefully weathered cedar gazebos, copper-patina wind chimes tinkling, surrounded by delicately twining vines of ivy, climbing rose, perfectly trimmed hedges, flagstone paths to make your soul weep. And it’s all green, Green, GREEN in the way that the newly watered perfect garden is supposed to be. Not a petal or grass blade out of place.

Not a weed in sight.

garden site

Before. See the perfect garden superimposed? No? Ok. That’s my head.

Seeing a Perfect Garden is Believing

We buy into this perfect garden mythology, we new gardeners, because we must. Nobody says to herself, “YES! I am going to go kneel in the ankle-deep mud and choke on the blowing sand while I dig out 80-pound boulders to make room for a 20-foot square garden which will yield two tomatoes, 47 huge tomato bugs, three heads of pre-wilted lettuce, and a squash that looks like a prune!”

Relying on Perfect Garden Mythology

We look at that empty 20 square feet of weeds, rocks, dead saplings and bird poop – and we see the Versailles Gardens superimposed in all their perfectly tended glory. We weed and dig and push and shovel and hoe the existing muck out of the way in the hope of revealing this perfect garden.

We need the promise of the perfect garden. It’s what keeps us digging and watering and hauling and shoveling and hoping.