General Advice by Liberty Hyde Bailey

Every family can have a garden. If there is not a foot of land, there are porches or windows. Wherever there is sunlight, plants may be made to grow; and one plant in a tin can may be a more helpful and inspiring garden to some mind than a whole acre of lawn and flowers may be to another. The satisfaction of a garden dos not depend upon the area, nor, happily, upon the cost or rarity of the plants. It depends upon the temper of the person. One must first seek to love plants and nature, and then to cultivate that happy peace of mind which is satisfied with little. He will be happier if he has no rigid and arbitrary ideals, for gardens are coquettish, particularly with the novice. If plants grow and thrive, he should be happy; and if the plants which thrive chance not to be the ones which he planted, they are plants nevertheless, and nature is satisfied with them. We are apt to covet the things which we cannot have; but we are happier when we love the things which grow because they must. A patch of lusty pigweeds, growing and crowding in luxuriant abandon, may be a better and more worthy object of affection than a bed of coleuses in which every spark of life and spirit and individuality has been sheared out and suppressed. The man who worries morning and night about the dandelions in the lawn will find great relief in loving the dandelions. Each blossom is worth more than a gold coin, as it shimmers in the exuberant sunlight of the growing spring, and attracts the bees to its bosom. Little children love the dandelions; why may not we? Love the things nearest at hand; and love intensely. If I were to write a motto over the gate of a garden, I should choose the remark which Socrates made as he saw the luxuries in the market “How much there is in the world that I do not want!”


From Garden-Making: Suggestions for the Utilizing of Home Grounds. That Garden-Craft Series. New York; Macmillan, 1898


Also in The Liberty Hyde Bailey Gardner’s Companion, Essential Writings. Edited by John Stempien and John Linstrom. Cornell University Press, 2019




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