No need for garden guilt

Janice Wells
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One of the joys of having a garden it is that when you have to stop working at it, it still works on you. In fact, if you just plain don’t want to work at a garden or if you just can’t work at a garden, it’s worth paying someone to make you a garden, even if it’s small and simple and even if you have to scrimp on something else.

For years, when illness overtook me, I added to the burden by feeling guilty about neglecting the garden. Thank goodness I’m over that foolishness. Even when it is a tad neglected and out of control like mine, a garden is a good place to be and should make you feel better, not worse.

One of the gardens on the first annual Mystery Garden Tour was created for that very purpose, but I’d be surprised if all of the gardens I visited haven’t had a healing or at the very least, a soothing effect on their inhabitants at one time or another.  

(By the way, I must apologize to all the Mystery Gardeners; my poor camera couldn’t take all the rain and most of the pictures I took have a hazy spot right in the middle. I am cropping where I can, but I fear many beautiful spots will not make it to this column. I’d love for you to send me some shots taken in drier weather.)

I used the word “inhabitants” earlier because we don’t all create the gardens we are surrounded with; sometimes we simply inhabit them. Sometimes we’re in charge and things get a bit neglected and out of control. Sometimes someone professional is in charge and things never get unruly.

In either case, the idea is to relax. I had big plans to divide and move and pot up and get rid of all sorts of things this fall, but right now I have a feeling that a lot of this is not going to get done. I must not fret over it.

I also had plans to replace some of these bolder plants with more spring bloomers. Hopefully some of this will get done but even if next spring I’m bemoaning what I didn’t do this fall, I will still get that uplifting feeling that a garden gives you after a long winter.

And sometimes a garden needs to do even more than that. On the Garden Tour, we were privileged to have access to 12 private gardens, and we were doubly privileged to visit a garden created especially as a sanctuary for a loved one who was very ill.

This garden, professionally designed and maintained by Bowering Gardens, turned “an unruly, multi-level and uninviting back yard" into a “calm oasis” and, ultimately, it became a Landscape Excellence nominee.

The hardscaping includes a waterfall and pond, winding stone paths and walls and a clematis feature wall. A Chinese dogwood, a ginko tree, hydrangeas and hostas anchored dozens of other perennials, shrubs and annuals.

The cost of doing such an elaborate garden would be prohibitive for most of us, but the pleasure that serene garden surroundings can bring to someone who is suffering is invaluable. Once you have that mindset, the haven you create can cost as little or as much as you can afford.

The sound of water can be soothing and has the added bonus of attracting birds. I say “can be soothing” because the fountain that I bought for my small enclosed garden didn’t have an adjustment feature to turn down the intensity of the bubbling and I found myself turning it off because it was a little too loud for my taste.

I suspect this is not a problem one encounters when you have a professionally designed water feature. It’s also likely that my fountain wouldn’t sound as loud in an open garden, but keep it in mind if you’re buying a fountain. They do not all sound the same.


Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published in October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at

Note to readers: please do not send thumbnail-size photographs, as they are too small to publish.

Organizations: MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

Geographic location: Bowering Gardens

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