Achieving Happiness in Your Garden: The Twelfth Secret

One day, as I came up the front walk to see if I had a package of bulbs waiting by the front door, I saw a little rabbit jump off the first step to the porch and dart off.

I think he ended up under a nearby spruce tree because I saw him run under the low hanging limbs of the spruce but didn’t see him scurry out the other side. Oh, well, what could one more rabbit do in my garden at this point in the season?

As I stepped up on the first step up to the porch, I noticed that one of the bricks on the step was loose and sitting rather crookedly from where it was supposed to be. I’d been meaning to fix that brick all summer but just never got around to it. Now that I was expecting several big packages of bulbs to show up any day, I decided I should fix it before someone got hurt.

As I reached down to pick up the loose brick, I noticed a little piece of neatly folded paper sticking out from underneath it.

Without hesitation, I picked up the note, unfolded it, and read it to myself. By golly, I thought, I’m still finding out secrets to achieving happiness in your garden and here in my hand I held the twelfth secret. At least I was pretty sure it was the twelfth secret.

I mentally went through the list of all the other secrets, counting them as I went.

Grow the plants you love, size the garden for the resources you have, buy good tools, respect Mother Nature, and share your garden were the first five secrets to achieving happiness in your garden.

Then I discovered five more secrets including plan your garden, feed your soil, strive for balance, ask for help, and change your garden if you don't like it.  And one more secret, try new plants, made for eleven secrets up to this point.

Ye, this was the twelfth one. I thought it was one of the best secrets, too, though it seemed so obvious, it was almost too simple.

Plant for the future.

Really, what else are we planting for, if not the future? Was that really such a big secret?

I thought about it for a minute and remembered that someone once told me the best time to plant a tree is “twenty years ago”. Then I thought about all those people who used to come into the hardware store where I worked one spring and ask where they could buy tulips and daffodils. I wanted to say “last fall”, but reminded myself they didn’t ask when, they asked where.

Then it started to make sense. To be happy in your garden you really have to plant for the future. You have to plant trees while they are young and bulbs when they are dormant. You have to provide proper spacing and allow time for the plants to fill in the gaps. Then when the time comes, whether it is time to enjoy the shade of a mature tree or the first blooms of crocuses in the spring, you’ll be happy to have planted something today for tomorrow.

Plant for the future, the twelfth secret to achieving happiness in your garden.

I folded up the note and put it in my pocket. There weren’t any boxes of bulbs on the step that day, but I knew they’d be coming any day now and planting them would be planting for the future, for a bright and happy spring day yet to come. Maybe I should order more bulbs? And plant another tree?

Plant for the future.


  1. Wonderful! Something we need to remember when we get impatient. So much about gardening concerns the future.

  2. I have large shrubs that are at present only about a foot high. But give them 10 years and they will be glorious!

    (And I have 750 bulbs waiting for my next trip up to the garden...)

    Enjoy your garden as if tomorrow would be your last day - and plant as if you were going to live for a hundred years!

  3. I think this one's particularly important given the 'instant gardening' so prevalent in the media. :) A garden's naturally something that develops over time but garden TV etc seem to treat it like having the kitchen 'done'.

  4. Gardening is really teaching me patience. I have to remind myself not to plant things too close together, because that little 1-foot shrub will one day be 5 times its size. You have the wisest rabbits I know, Carol:)

  5. Okay, I will! Bulbs are on the way.

  6. Carol you are a dear for sharing your "secrets" with all. I've discovered them all in my many years of gardening and echo the truths you tell. Gardening really does bring happiness to those who seek it.

  7. Carol, I've just discovered the "gardening secrets" area of your website and I love it! Great stories and great advice.

  8. As I sit looking out onto a garden that needs a lot of work (we just moved in 2 months ago), I'm certainly looking at secret #12 - planning for the future. Planted about 8 trees and shrubs so far knowing that one day the garden will be filled with hydrangeas and eastern redbud trees. Waiting for the bulbs to arrive to plant for a good show in the spring. And waiting for the spring to come so that I can see what's truly there before I start digging up too much.

    Great advice - thanks for sharing

  9. A simple idea that resonates. Planting is planning and cherishing the future. I've been toiling in my first garden lately (it's a winter garden, of course) and I'm learning a lot.

    The best part is that it gives me a reason to be outside.


  10. So right, I'm a firm believer in planting trees. But allowing proper spacing has always been a challenge for me. I'm too much of a collector and propagator to be so disciplined.


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