Thursday 13: Gardening Quotes

A list of thirteen things: Random garden/ing quotes, in the widest sense.

1. “Planning: The days grew shorter, until there were only nine hours of light. Boundaries that others usually placed on my time disappeared, leaving me with edgeless days (though short) and seemingly endless nights. So I found that plans were useless. To plan a day began to mean to start out into it, and then to find myself on many unexpected tangents from the forward progress, the mainstream of the plan. The digressions — what I did that I had no idea I would do — turned out to be more interesting.” ― Doris Grumbach, Fifty Days of Solitude (1994)

This is the pattern of my best days: I have a sort of plan, or a list of a few things, and then curiosity, creativity, and all kinds of digressions take over.

2a&b. “He made two or three peculiar observations; as when shewn the botanical garden, ‘Is not EVERY garden a botanical garden?” ― James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
“But the sea
which no one tends
is also a garden” ― William Carlos Williams, Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems: Collected Poems, 1950-1962

This is the foundation of my blog, really: It’s about my garden, and it’s about any other garden on earth, which includes woods, marshes, beaches and oceans, deserts, vernacular landscapes, prairies, meadows, bogs, and so on. They’re all chock full of plants, as well as non-plant species, and they’re “gardened” by virtue of being places where interconnected natural plant communities grow over time, whether cultivated by humans or self-cultivated.

Taking cues from those other gardens, particularly the places unmanaged or minimally managed by humans, I try, mostly, to garden like natural communities do: though I choose many of the plants in my own garden, they (and others I’ve not chosen), do their own thing, so that over time the garden evolves to become more of what it wants; one of the very few exceptions is garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), which is allelopathic, “producing chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants and mychorrizal fungi needed for healthy tree growth and tree seedling survival.” I, and I imagine the other plants and animals, don’t want it doing that thing, so I pull it out.

Beyond researching the needs and functions of the plants I choose, I don’t take much care of what I’ve planted other than providing water and mulch the first year and doing some pruning as needed for the plant’s health and the overall health of the wild community. I leave most seedheads on plants at least over winter, I leave most of the foliage and flowerheads where they drop, I don’t divide and generally don’t transplant (I’ve transplanted a few things to give them more sun once I realised they’d been misplanted by me or someone before me, or maybe not misplanted originally but shade has grown in a previously sunny place), and I do all I can to encourage insects, reptiles and amphibians, mammals, and birds, including: throwing fallen or cut branches into piles for animal habitat; letting leaf litter (duff) alone for the most part and chopping-and-dropping leaves of comfrey and other nutrient accumulators (those with long tap roots) for living mulch and to improve the soil; offering bird baths and shallow water pools for insects and others; planting shrubs and trees with berries, nuts, and other food for animals, including milkweed for monarch larvae; planting what bees, butterflies, and other pollinators enjoy; and considering the whole natural community — the needs and functions of the whole — when choosing and placing plants (e.g., the fruit guild; more on fruit guilds here).

Still, I want to control succession to some extent, and to that extent, I do manage my own garden, lazily and fairly incompetently.

3. “In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence. One has to sit still like a mystic and wait. One soon learns that fussing, instead of achieving things, merely prevents things from happening. To be passive is in some circumstances the most efficient form of activity. You cannot command events: you can only put yourself in the place where events will happen to you.” ― Robert Lynd, Solomon in All His Glory (1922)


4. “To love a swamp, however, is to love what is muted and marginal, what exists in the shadows, what shoulders its way out of mud and scurries along the damp edges of what is most commonly praised. And sometimes its invisibility is a blessing. Swamps and bogs are places of transition and wild growth, breeding grounds, experimental labs where organisms and ideas have the luxury of being out of the spotlight, where the imagination can mutate and mate, send tendrils into and out of the water. … Things in the margins, including humans who wander there, are often on the brink of becoming something else, or someone else.” ― Barbara Hurd, Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination (2008)


5. “’You know Balbec so well – do you have friends in the area?’
‘I have friends wherever there are companies of trees, wounded but not vanquished, which huddle together with touching obstinacy to implore an inclement and pitiless sky.’
‘That is not what I meant,’ interrupted my father, as obstinate as the trees and as pitiless as the sky.” ― Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way


6. “One of the functions of landscape is to correspond to, nurture, and provoke exploration of the landscape of the imagination. Space to walk is also space to think, and I think that’s one thing landscapes give us: places to think longer, more uninterrupted thoughts or thoughts to a rhythm other than the staccato of navigating the city.” ― Rebecca Solnit, Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics (2007)

7. “People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” ― Iris Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970)


8. “A net of looking
holds the world together,
keeps it from falling.” ― Roberto Juarroz, from an untitled poem in Vertical Poetry (1988)

9. “I like muddling things up; and if a herb looks nice in a border, then why not grow it there? Why not grow anything anywhere so long as it looks right where it is? That is, surely, the art of gardening.” ― Vita Sackville-West, about dill specifically, originally from her weekly Observer column and quoted in Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden (2014), by Vita Sackville-West and Sarah Raven


10. “There is no mystery in this association of woods and otherworlds, for as anyone who has walked the woods knows, they are places of correspondence, of call and answer. Visual affinities of color, relief and texture abound. A fallen branch echoes the deltoid form of a streambed into which it has come to rest. Chrome yellow autumn elm leaves find their color rhyme in the eye-ring of the blackbird. Different aspects of the forest link unexpectedly with each other, and so it is that within the stories, different times and worlds can be joined.” ― Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places (2007)

11. “…until is has been tamed a hose is a extraordinarily evasive and dangerous beast, for it contorts itself, it jumps, it wriggles, it makes puddles of water, and dives with delight into the mess it has made, then it goes for the man who is going to use it and coils itself round his legs.” ― Karel Capek, The Gardener’s Year (1929)



12. “But the landscape of devastation is still a landscape. There is beauty in ruins.” ― Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (2002)

13. “What a marvelous cooperative arrangement – plants and animals each inhaling each other’s exhalations, a kind of planet-wide mutual mouth-to-stoma resuscitation, the entire elegant cycle powered by a star 150 million kilometers away.” ― Carl Sagan, Cosmos


New Thursday 13 meme


  1. This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing. Kind of made me want to do a 50-days-away-from-the-world and back into nature thing. Thanks for joining Thursday 13!

  2. This is stunning, and reflects what I’ve learned, very closely. Leave it alone, don’t fuss at it, and the rewards are usually surprises as in, “where did THAT come from?” and you work around the butterflies and that nest in the dogwood tree…

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