So You Think You Can Garden?

An insight can sneak in quietly. Such happened to me during a lull in this off-kilter holiday. With Daughter #1 visiting from university. Shopping. Cooking. Wrapping. Eating. Entertaining; being entertained. Eating more. Learning Twitter. Dealing with (“stepping around”) the attendant mess.

My insight arrived during a marathon viewing of So You Think You Can Dance? auditions. Watching these talented young dancers compete for a chance to compete, it struck me how much a dancer must give to be the best of the best. Time. Energy. Heart. Soul. We all know of overnight successes; I don’t know many in the field of dance.

If any artist gave their craft equivalent devotion, how far they’d go!

Most gardeners have lives outside our gardens. And, as I said, these inspiring dancers are young. Like Olympic athletes, they’ve sacrificed much over a short time to reach a goal. I doubt they have kids or mortgages to draw away their time and energy. Many have patrons (AKA parents) as facilitators.

Still, I found my gee-you-get-out-what-you-put-in insight to be strangely liberating. Talent may be elusive. But hard work and persistence are available to all of us. Even more liberating: we gardeners don’t reach our peak in our twenties; we have a lifetime.

So do I think I can garden? Well, yes I think I can – if I’m willing to give it the right amount of time, energy and, dare I say, heart and soul needed to be the gardener I want to be. On the flip side, do I think I can make the garden I want right for the gardener I am? And for the garden I have?

Since declaring my Grand Simplification in October (here and here), I’ve percolated much on this. Anticipating a (shhhhhh!) resolution for 2010, I’m enrolled in Ryerson’s Landscape Design certificate program to help set me on fresh garden paths. Classes start a week from Monday. I hope I pass the audition.


  1. Good for you! It will be interesting to see how you enjoy the experience of taking a course vs your own natural talents in the garden. And you do have talents, so don't let any academics put you down, promise me?

  2. Helen :)i'm laughing at myself because your post has me so vicariously +~*excited*+~ and inspired by:
    -this view of your garden (i like the colours, shapes, hard-earned lushness: coherent, well composed and edited)
    -your ability to photograph it (that's magazine quality stuff!)
    -back to school in Landscape Design? that's too cool! (hopefully we'll read tidbits about the parts you enjoy the most?)

    some folks know how to ring in their next decade. good for you! 🙂

  3. Methinks you'll be teaching them a thing or two my green thumbed friend! Good on ya' though. I am considering a course or two here in Guelph on horticulture.

  4. What an uplifting post for the New Year! Yes! We can do it! Um, what is IT? Rakes and trowels crossed for your audition.

    P.S. Thanks for giving my a big case of garden envy with that photo of yours.

  5. What an exciting way to start the new year! Going back to school to take something you really love already sounds like a lovely way to spend the winter.

    We want reports cards! 😉

  6. Helen, I am very interested in learning more about your course as you take it. I did take the Landscape construction course at Ryerson, the design course was not available when I was. I also took the garden design at George Brown, not as intensive (re: drawing) as I was looking for.

  7. I do love So You Think You Can Dance. I agree hard work gets one a long way in gardening; it's just that to me, it isn't really work, it's zen. Also, I notice a LOT of gardeners DO have patrons–in the form of well-employed spouses. 🙂

  8. Thanks, Jodi,
    In doing this, I'm continuing what I began more than 10 years ago, and hopefully some of that work will be credited this time around. I'll try to take your advice.

    NPG, Thanks so much!
    Hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew… I'll be keeping you posted on stuff to share.

    I began with courses from Guelph when I was a Master Gardener – love the school. Unfortunately, the Hort. program I started there is no long available. RyHi is close to home, and one of the courses is based at the Toronto Botanical Garden. I'll be there, one day a week, from Jan. to April. Looking forward to seeing the weekly changes.

    DP, Hmmm. Yes We Can? Hope I don't uplift and then deflate like one person I can think of. Don't be envious of my photo. It looks picture perfect mid-summer, but you should see it by August. A mess!

    Ms. S., Yes, I'm excited. Reports will be forthcoming.

    Deborah, I'll give you the play-by-play. My expectations for the course are fairly modest, though. I'm thinking it'll be more info than art. TBD.

    Monica, There are certainly some gardeners with spousal support. We're pretty equally "supportive" at our house, which means I'll have to balance part-time studies with work, family maintenance… and gardening, to put all those ideas into practice.

    Did I mention I'm also training for a marathon in 2010? I like to keep things simple. Ha!

  9. Very well said! I like the analogy with So You Think You Can Dance – one of my favorite shows. I'm sure your audition will go well. If those academic people have any common sense, they will see what great assets you have. I drool at the thought of taking classes in landscape design! Best wishes!

  10. I am actually hoping to combine my love of dance and gardening this year. I'm sure I can work a tango into my lawn cutting and perhaps dead heading whilst waltzing sedately around the borders…

    Hope you love the course and Happy New Year. Dx

  11. I love the title of this post…so often I watch those shows and wonder if there could ever be a big 'Garden Competition'…sort of a 'Garden Off'…mano y mano..trowel vs. spade….

    I hope you write about your experience going back to school (something I've thought of doing myself)…and I wish you the best of luck with your new classes! Bravo for you!

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