Hortus sanus: Failure is on the menu at Mother Nature's Diner

Welcome to your own private garden restaurant, Mother Nature’s Diner.

You plan to order beautiful flowers to feast your eyes on, loamy soil that looks like chocolate cake mix, and the perfect amount of rain to wash it all down. For dessert, you’d like a few sweet song birds to listen to, dozens of pretty butterflies to amuse you, and a bonnet full of bees buzzing slowly from flower to flower.

But Mother Nature is a sassy waitress in this private garden restaurant.

She decides what you will actually get and cares not a bit about what you ordered. She secretly has some failure on the menu and for no reason at all she will decide to dish it up for you.

And what does that big ol’ dish of failure look like? It looks a lot like plants that die unexpectedly, flowers that never show up, and ground that is harder than a day old piece of pie left out overnight. Doggone it, the only birds seem to be nasty old starlings, you can’t  find a butterfly to save your garden, and the bees look like they might sting you without a second thought.

But all is not lost! You know that you can still have a healthy garden, hortus sanus, even with some failure served up on occasion.

You just have to figure out a bit about your waitress, Mother Nature, and what she likes.

She likes good compost  and actually helps make that. She also likes plant diversity and maybe a good water feature. Make sure to have all that in your garden, and Mother Nature might be a little nicer when it comes time to serve you your main course and dessert, too.

Keep in mind she does not like gardeners who don’t at least try to meet her halfway, so do try to help and pull your weight in Mother Nature’s Diner by doing some weeding, some deadheading and some planning for plants that will live, and thrive, with the amount of water she decides you will get.

Yep, Mother Nature’s Diner is not a place where you want to act all uppity, like you own the joint. Do that, maybe flash some money around like you can buy whatever you want, and Mother Nature the waitress will give you a bad table, make you wait longer than anyone else, then plop a big ol’ plate of garden failure in front of you and charge you double.

Be humble, be respectful, be gracious, be helpful, be thankful, and leave a big tip. Mother Nature may still serve you some failure every once in a while just to be sure you know she’s not to be trifled with, but mostly she’ll also serve you a lot of success and you’ll have hortus sanus, a healthy garden, as a result.


  1. Ah, yes, "Mother Nature," I'd like to order some drought-tolerant, long-blooming perennials (super-size that, please). And could I get a side of compost with that? Oh, and how about a dollop of mulch to go on top. And then I think I'd like to wash all that down with big ol' glass of nice soaking rain. I'll start my diet tomorrow, I promise :-)

  2. Why I garden: Mother Nature regularly serves up some nice, warm Humble Pie, with a side of chaos. It's the perfect antidote to Type A behavior.

  3. This is such a wise post, Carol. Every so often Our Local Diner just runs out of some ingredient and what we want fails to appear on the menu that day. Keeps us on our toes. . .

  4. What a delightful place setting, Carol. I have a little tool set like that and never would have thought of it as cutlery! Mother Nature might even spit in your food if you are not respectful! Be sure and tip well, into that compost pile. :-)
    Chocolate cake soil is best.

  5. I have thought about you and your garden "cooking" during the worst summer ever weather-wise. I bet you are tipping Mother Nature with lots of water to keep things going.

  6. She's been quite sassy in Nashville this summer! She finally decided we had waited long enough for our beverages and served up some rain! Just enough to make us smile! gail

  7. Right now I wish Mother Nature wouldn't be so stingy with the beverages. We got some rain yesterday, but it might have been 1/4 inch if we were lucky.

  8. Love the place setting. It's always best to work with nature, rather than fight it. That also makes a garden look more a part of its setting, the old genius loci thing. (E.g., no palm trees in Chicago.)

  9. Really inventive post. Loads of great comparisons and imagery. Kinda wish I could order up a cool, huge glass of rain, sun and rainbows and compost pie.

  10. Great post Carol and darling photo.

  11. Yeah, Mother Nature’s Diner can be a hard place to have a nice dinner, but if you do get it you are all set.
    Love the photo.


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