Do you have a theme for your garden this year?

Requisite photo of a garden-y thing
Do you have a theme for your garden this year?

I've been reading Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden by Vita Sackville-West and Sarah Raven and have gotten all fired up about my garden, again.

I'll admit, I usually have a big fire of passion about my garden going most of the time.   Sure, in the winter time I usually just keep the embers of my gardening passion hot, mostly due to the weather, but by spring, I'm ready for a big bonfire, metaphorically speaking, of course.

I received this book, Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden, sometime last fall.  I am pretty sure it is a review copy, but because here at the Home for Old Gardening Books, Well, Any Gardening Books, there seems to be a fairly constant flow of purchased and sent-for-review books coming in, I sometimes forget whether I bought the book or a publisher graciously sent it to me.

Sometimes, I end up with two copies of a book, like Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds: A Personal Tour of 20 Gardens by Victoria Summerley and Hugo Rittson Thomas, because I bought a copy and later I got an offer for a review copy, which I found hard to refuse.  See above about Home for Old Gardening Books, Well, Any Gardening Books.

Some old women take solace in having a house full of cats.  I'll be the old woman in the house full of old gardening books, well, any gardening books.

Back to the original question. Do you have a theme for your garden this year?   If you don't have a theme and have no idea what it might be if you had the good sense to have one, may I suggest for inspiration, you read some of the writings of Vita Sackville-West that Sarah Raven included in this new book about Sackville-West's garden, Sissinghurst?

Then, like me, you might pick a theme around experimenting.  Per Sackville-West, 'a good gardener makes experiments'.

Or maybe you are ready to go all out with reckless risks. Sackville-West also wrote, 'the fun of gardening is nothing unless you take reckless risks'.

Of course, experiments and reckless risks may at some point call for corrections or do overs.

Sackville-West has that covered, too. 'Gardening is largely a question of mixing one sort of plant with another sort of plant, and of seeing how they marry happily together; and if you see that they don't marry happily, then you must hoick one of them out and be quite ruthless about it.'

And... 'That is the only way to garden; and that is why I advise every gardener to go round his garden now - make notes of what he thinks he ought to remove and of what he wants to plant later on...  The true gardener must be brutal, and imaginative for the future.'

There you go. Make a theme out of experimentation, reckless risks, hoicking out plants that just aren't working, ruthlessness.  Throw in some imagination for the future, too.

It all brings to mind another quote, one from the beloved southern garden writer, Elizabeth Lawrence. "Are you cruel enough to be a gardener?"  Well, are you?  Sure, you are!

Let this be the season you took the Big Risk in your garden.  What's your garden experiment going to be? Where do you need to apply a little ruthlessness out there in your garden? And I'm all for hoicking, a new word for me.  It means to abruptly pull something out. And abruptly implies sudden or unexpected.

Let's all just do it together this gardening season. Make big changes where changes are called for, and stop the endless dithering, pondering and second-guessing.  Let's hoick out what clearly isn't working and plant something else in its place.  And if you weren't dithering or pondering or second-guessing, and were insulted I even suggested you were, no worries. I wrote that part for me, because I tend to dither and ponder  and second-guess too much sometimes.

I'm enjoying this book, Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden. It's arrival here at the Home for Old Gardening Books, Well, Any Gardening Books is well-timed. I'm just one-third through it, so I'm not ready to write a complete review, but what I've read so far makes me wish for a rainy day with no other obligations so I can sit by the window,  the window from where I can look out onto most of the back garden, and read it all day long.

But no time for that now, so I'll continue to read it at a leisurely pace. It's spring. Time to hoick some plants, start some big experiments and follow Sackville-West's advice to go round the garden and make some notes.


  1. 'the fun of gardening is nothing unless you take reckless risks' it.

  2. I didn't know it but I have been hoicking out some plants already. I have also made a big risk and planted a fir tree in hopes it will survive here. I have all sorts of ideas for projects. I want...

  3. This was exactly what I needed to read! There is a big change needed in my garden (bye bye grass!) but I have been a bit paralyzed by what to pick instead. Here's to experimentation and risk!

  4. Just think! I've been hoicking all this time and didn't even know it.

  5. I have learned a new word. I have done it!

  6. Ha! So true. I have always been very able to 'let them hit the compost heap' if they do not play well with others. Plants not people. Ruthless is necessary.

  7. I do have a theme this year! Cardinal Red!
    Great post!

  8. Well, at first I thought I was an expert at hoiking. After all, I constantly rip out plants that don't please me. I'm talking good strong healthy plants too. Often my friends are appalled, when I say things like "I tore all the daylilies out of my garden". I get such gasps! But then, I thought about that strip along the patio that has turned into a jumbled mess. It really needs a little hoiking. Maybe a lot. Can hoiking be my theme?

  9. My garden theme this year is "Downsizing". As I have grown old and more disabled by the year I have to give up more and more garden as time goes by. I guess I'll end up like my great grand mother who gardened until her death. She left a small bed of her favorite 5 iris that she tended in her old age. It was sad to see her beautiful garden shrink to such a small size but it was also a testiment to her love of nature.

  10. I definitely need to do some hoicking! It's hard for me to be ruthless, but my kind-heartedness has resulted in a jumbled mess in many parts of my garden. Thanks for the motivation, Carol.

  11. "are you cruel enough to be a gardener?"

    Love it! Great post!

  12. I never thought of gardening as masochistic! Pretty reminds me of a cartoon I saw as a child....a daisy-like flower with a face and one stem growing alone and someone tries to pull it up and it hangs on to the earth with all it's might...let me know if you get that reaction!


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