Articles proclaiming “Easy Steps to a Beautiful Garden” are lying to you. Gardeners encourage others to take up the trowel by telling them gardening is easy. We’re lying, gardening is actually hard work.

Truly gifted gardeners make it look easy. Not me. I make gardening look hard.

I console myself noting my garden is very visible so of course everyone sees my endeavors. Early morning I head out to collect the paper and inevitably encounter a weed that needs pulling. Before I realize it, I’m in full gardener mode inappropriately dressed in my robe and pajamas. Neighbors out for their morning walk can’t help but notice the spectacle.

Lesson One: Gardening looks easier if you look effortless. Muddy hands just look out of place when you're wearing jammies. People get the wrong idea.

Lesson Two: Have a plan. My grandparents grew flowers in their front yard —colorful beds embraced their small house. Soft pastels in spring, full-throated color for summer and rich jewel tones in the fall. It was only after they passed away and my grandfather’s garden logs came into my possession that I began to understand how much planning went into their beautiful display. They made gardening look easy because they were executing their plans. Plan first, dig second.

The Olympic phenomenon applies to gardening. You know, when talented athletes make their sport look easy, inspiring others to take a try, only to be frustrated when they discover the giant slalom is actually hard, and scary. The casual observer doesn’t see the hours of practice necessary to master the basics. The basics of gardening starts with good soil.

Lesson Three: Focus on building good garden soil and everything else will be so much easier. Soil isn’t as exciting as blooming flowers but the adage is true; no roots, no shoots.

Now that I’ve entered the “gardener of a certain age” era of life I’m forced into making more sensible choices. Tasks that were once easy (digging holes for trees, moving yards of compost, hauling loads of rocks) I now tackle by the littles. Which brings me to:

Lesson Four: Be sensible. We can get seriously injured or sidelined by gardening mishaps, so tackle gardening chores realistically. Injuries don’t make gardening look easy, only more daunting and dangerous.

My gardening lessons are easy to know but hard to master, at least for me. So I’m consigned to make gardening look hard. Perhaps that’s why my neighbors rush by as I stand in muddy jammies, fingers bleeding, exclaiming the virtues of a plant they must try this season.

My carefully chosen bulbs are eaten by voles, beloved plants mysteriously die, and the images in my head never fully materialize. No matter, it's the pursuit of perfection I enjoy. That's the most important lesson of all — chase your dreams.

Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email: info@absentee-gardener.com.

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