Long-term Relationships

Life and gardening have a lot in common. One of the similarities I often reflect on is long-term relationships -- both what long-term means as well as the kind of relationship. Again, and again, we fail to comprehend that long-term is not synonymous with forever. Long-term could mean a year or less, or it could mean a decade, and in some instances a lifetime. It depends on the individuals involved as well as the circumstances, many of which are beyond our control. Moreover, the relationship is certain to evolve over time, and what we do or do not do can have a profound effect on the duration. Things change, but we are often unwilling to acknowledge as much. Nor does change necessarily mean for the worse. You may simply lose interest, find the change unappealing (often from having gotten too big) OR there never was an option for long-term (i.e., many years or forever). For example, no matter what you do, a Zone 9 non-reseeding annual is not going to perennialize in central Indiana. To ignore or refuse to accept that kind of reality is foolish, but not uncommon.

What type of relationship? Intense, but ephemeral? Perhaps longer, and anywhere from intimate, lots of touching, and frequently attended to (e.g., a tomato plant), to occasional and anything but intimate (e.g., a blocking prickly shrub that you rarely visit).

Then there is the matter of editing, which relates to the do, or do not do, comment I made earlier. We edit our clothes, sometimes our personnel relationships, and we certainly should do it in gardening. If not, you are making a mistake (Chap 3 in my Book and a topic I present at conferences). Again, nothing lasts forever, and things change. It is called life. Enjoy it while it lasts. But should we be faulted or flog ourselves for wanting something better, something different? If you are no longer as enthralled, consider a redo or refreshment and, importantly, the appropriate time to make the change; that is, with the least amount of trauma. For example, removing a dead tree when the ground is frozen {good idea}, or extracting a flowering plant just before it performs {bad idea}, or splitting while vacationing together {also likely a bad idea}). However, rather than a discarding action, perhaps you should instead figure a way to improve the relationship which might include getting rid of ancillary accumulated distractions. And understand that you cannot control everything in your life, but that does not stop some from trying. Gardening for this type of person (let's call them control freaks) can be frustrating.

Lastly, rational termination and death are part of gardening. If you are overly sentimental the decision and the split can be difficult. No surprise, too often there is little if any advance planning. How we deal with the sudden and invariably unwanted circumstances life throws at us exposes our persona. It challenges us and builds character. It can also scar and break us. Nurture and relish the relationship but have the sense to know when it is time to move on, either leaving the space vacant or try to find a suitable replacement, while understanding the relationship (with the new entity) cannot be the same. Perhaps similar, or even better, but never the same. The world has turned. Enjoy what you have while you have it, but embrace and appreciate the change -- it's coming, regardless -- and relish the sweet memories.

The plant in the pic is a dead standardized Blue Star Juniper positioned next to my burn pile. It was a wonderful plant : ( Please also notice the sublime, clover rich, chemical free lawn, cut high and resplendent with a diversity of moss and flowering species, including thousands of spring beauties every year. Maybe the relationship you should consider abandoning is the pure, artificial and uninteresting "Green Lawn" look. The environmentally harmonious (i.e., better) landscape is more beautiful.