Hortus sanus

Hortus sanus.

Most gardeners recognize hortus sanus when they see it. It is what we want for ourselves, for every gardener. It is what we hope for, plan for, work for, and plant for.

Literally translated hortus sanus is Latin for “garden healthy” or “garden sane”

Most gardeners want a healthy garden. Most gardeners want a healthy garden without giving up their own sanity to get it. They want a balance between hortus sanus and ego sanus.

When I meet other gardeners, the happiest ones are those who have achieved that balance.

Balance is never easy. It requires practice, patience, and persistence. It requires study and observation and learning. Sometimes it requires “do-overs”, “step backs” and “tear downs”.

The definition of hortus sanus, a healthy garden, is different for every gardener depending on where we garden and what we are capable of doing. It depends on what means we have, both within ourselves and within our checkbooks.

Once we put that shovel in the ground for the first time and realize we are gardeners, the quest begins, whether we realize it or not, for hortus sanus.

I’m on that quest, and have been on that quest for decades.

Let me tell you what I’ve learned so far…

(Thank you to Pam Penick, Digging, for the picture of me in a gazing ball, taken at the Shadrack's beautiful gardens somewhere near Buffalo, New York.)


  1. Balance is a challenge. When I get frazzled about what still needs to be done in the garden, and there is always something, I remember the phrase 'Don't sweat the small stuff'. Most of us do not garden for survival so just about everything is 'small stuff'.

  2. And the definition of suspense is....

    Looking forward to your knowledge.

  3. Paul is on to you, Carol! You have built the wish to learn more, and we await with patient excitement, O learned one! :-)

  4. Sometimes the only place to find ones sanity is in the garden. Of course one has to come in every once and a while to read your words of wisdom. I don't want to miss anything.

  5. Yes, this is exactly what I'm after! A healthy balance between enjoying my garden and finding peace in it and not getting too overwhelmed by all the work that needs to be done. I'm reading a book currently called "Gardening for a Lifetime," which gives some tips on making gardening easier for those of us of "a certain age"--I'm taking lots of notes:)

    Great image of you in the gazing ball!

  6. You've caught my attention, Carol, now I'm waiting for the "jump" scene. I must say that I believe gardening brings my life balance. I look forward to more of your thoughts.

  7. I lost my sanity 14 years ago trying to create my piece of paradise. I haven't rested comfortably since then.

  8. The most important thing is DON'T FIGHT MOTHER NATURE. Accept that she'll win, and you're half way to the balance between hortus sanus and ego sanus. Figure out how she works in your ecosystem, and work with her. Get her on your side. Second, learn from your mistakes (many made from fighting Mother Nature), and move on. Take out the plant that requires extraordinary measures to keep alive or keep sightly, and plant something else. Third, learn to tolerate a little imperfection. As I sit here nursing a pulled muscle, I should add a fourth, delegate. When the nice young man at the garden center offers to help you with the big, sodden bag of potting soil, let him.


  9. I'm intrigued. I think Dierdre's on the right track with not fighting nature, or not fighting your garden's conditions. Does hortus sanus relate to the genius loci? (I love Latin.)

  10. Does hortus sanus relate to the genius loci? (I love Latin.)

    I think of genius loci as letting the location inspire. What I'm thinking of is more along the lines of letting the location instruct. Docui loci? Latin is not my strong suit.



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