Achieving Happiness In Your Garden: The Sixth Secret

I'll admit I was excited when I learned that there were several more secrets to achieving happiness in your garden other than first five secrets I had discovered so long ago. I was on high alert. I wanted to find these new secrets, wherever they were and whatever they were, as fast I could grow radishes in the springtime.

Every day as I tended the garden, I looked for stray scraps of paper that might have a secret written on them. I turned over rocks to see if a secret might be hidden beneath one of them. I searched for ribbons sticking out from who knows where that when pulled might be connected to a tiny, hidden package containing a secret.

But any bits of paper turned out to be trash, the loose rocks were merely hiding pill bugs, and there were no stray ribbons that I could find, except for one that seemed to be woven expertly into a robin’s nest.

I despaired of ever finding that next secret.

Then one day I put on an old pair of gardening gloves, a pair I had worn often and nearly worn out, and the palm of my hand started to itch. At first I thought maybe a spider had taken up residence inside the glove and had bitten me when I put it on. But when I yanked off the glove, there was no spider. Inside the glove, though, there was a tag that I had never noticed or felt before. I could just barely make out some very faded words on it.

“Could this be the sixth secret to achieving happiness in the garden,” I asked myself?

And indeed it could be, and it was. With tiny, funny little handwriting, the kind you might expect garden fairies to have, someone had written, “The sixth secret to achieving happiness in your garden is to plan your garden”.

Plan your garden!

It made perfect sense.

Plan your garden.

A garden without a plan is like a big, unorganized crowd, milling about, making a lot of noise, wondering what to do, who’s in charge, where they should go. Time is wasted; effort is wasted! It looks like a mess, and it is a mess. No one in the crowd is all that happy and no one wants to go near the crowd for fear of being sucked in.

In a garden without a plan, the plants are just planted willy-nilly wherever there happens to be a bare spot of dirt, and the results are chaotic. The plants are wasted, and time and effort are wasted trying to plant more plants amidst all the other mis-placed plants. The unplanned garden looks like a mess, and it probably is a mess. No one is happy in this kind of garden, including the gardener.

But with a plan, you bring a bit of order to the garden. You figure out in advance which plants go where, where focal points should be, and generally how you want the garden to look and feel. With that figured out, you are less likely to waste time and money with the wrong plants or with the right plants in the wrong places.

You can garden more confidently with a good plan, knowing that the end result will not be a mess, but a garden.

A garden plan doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Some gardeners can come up with their own plans, a general framework for their garden, and end up with very pleasing gardens. The plan can be as simple as, “we’ll put the vegetable garden here in the sun, a long perennial border over there, and plant a shade garden near the pine grove".

Other gardeners may prefer to work with a garden designer or landscape architect to develop more detailed plans to follow when planting.

Plan your garden.

How simply those three words sounded to me, and how true I knew them to be. After memorizing the message, I went around to the old garden shed and carefully laid that pair of garden gloves next to the book containing the first five secrets to achieving happiness in your garden.

Once I had discovered all five new gardening secrets, I planned to write them in the book so all the secrets would be in one place and available to any gardener who sought them out.

Plan your garden.

Knowing the sixth secret, I could now begin the search for the seventh secret.


  1. A wonderful reminder...and something I need to be reminded about often. Like when I'm wandering about, plant and trowel in hand, looking for that bare spot of dirt you spoke of.

  2. I only planned the small plot of land I "reclaimed" (story for another time) which could fit just about 5 trees and some plants in between.

    The rest of my plants are all in pots or are vTillandsias hanging from the windows and eaves. I still plant where to put them even if I can easily move them around.

  3. Its very true, a plan really does help, particularly when you only have a small plot and tend to keep falling in love with new plants! The plan, plus planting for the conditions you have rather than the conditions you want, helps make things happy and coherent. My challenge is to have plans even for the less loved spaces out the front, that do not constantly challenge - and occasionally delight - my eye...

  4. Ah Carol, if only we knew of this secret so long ago when gardening in earnest began. Some of us only learn this secret after trial and error. But lessons so learned are the richest kind. :-)

  5. Very well written. It sounds as your passion is gardening but that does not give you happiness.

    Happiness is an inside job and, from exploring your site, you have learned that very well.

    Thanks for the reminders.

    Life is as good as I allow it to be.

  6. I have tried to start so many plans for my garden, but they never come to completion before I happen upon another deal at the garden center and have to find a place to put it!

    Great post, Carol.

  7. So far I think this is the most difficult secret to achieve. My gardens seem to just grow - like Topsy.

  8. For me, the best part of planning a garden is anticipating how nice it's going to look. Anticipation can occupy me through an entire winter. For those who can't resist rescuing orphans at the end-of-season sales, I suggest a nursery bed in an out-of-the way spot where you can get acquainted with your newbie plant before deciding where it will look best.

  9. It took a trip to England to view some truly inspiring gardens to make me see my willy-nilly planting errors. I saw mature gardens with texture, flowers,focal points and layers all working together to create harmony.
    I came home to see a mish mash of stuff all crammed together in a too small space.
    So the summer was spent sitting on the patio looking at the gardens with a critical eye...That plant is too big, that plant is the same texture as everything around it and is lost.Still a work in progress but improvements have been noted.

  10. Happiness is a good plan. I am all for planning, in my garden and life. But a little serendipity is fine as well and often welcomed. Sometimes a plant that occurs by happenstance is the best little surprise of all.

  11. A wonderful post and a great reminder. I am not much of a gardener, I don't have a green thumb. Because of my limitations planning is very important in the survival of my landscaping.

    Planning and research, helps too.

  12. As long as the plan can be altered, I am all for a plan. Gardeners plan but Mother Nature has the last word.

  13. Excellent post. I have never been disciplined enough to write down or draw up an organized plan, but it's all in my head! As I walk my gardens, I am constantly planning, visualizing, moving, thinking about plant relationships, planting, redoing. Planning is a chunk of of the fun! Then I get into the actual work, and those plans often have to be adapted. A gardener has to be flexible.


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