Relax in the garden


Life has enough pressures, why include them in the garden?

It’s possible to overlook some of the production-oriented rules of horticulture, when just thinking about the inalienable rights to relax in the garden can help carry us through the ups and downs of fickle weather and attitudes.

Because it only takes a couple of weeks for dormant plants to lose their hardiness, I’m a little worried that some of my flowers are blooming a month ahead of time, and spring peeper frogs are singing their hearts out along the creek. I fully expect a relatively mild but sudden cold snap can damage too-tender plants and critters as badly as a hard freeze.

But, rather than moan and groan or gnash my teeth about something I have no control over, I’m keeping calm by amusing myself with humor.

I’m going a bit beyond the lame “you might be a garden nerd if…” lists, such as having plant labels in your garden, know how many bags of compost will fit in your car trunk, using a different shovel for different jobs, or have an “I brake for bagged leaves” bumper sticker.

It can get really deep. Like if you know what thigmotropism means, the scientific names of your weeds, and don’t blush over the reproductive details of earthworms. Or think “yeast excrement” when you drink a good ale.

Instead, I will share something my friend Steve Bender, retired Grumpy Gardener from Southern Living magazine and I came up with: The Gardeners Bill of Rights.

See, as a horticulturist who has taught Master Gardeners too much left-brain science, I understand the how-to guidelines for efficient production. Stuff like the best carbon-to-nitrogen ratio for composting, where to cut a tree limb so it won’t rot, when to fertilize the lawn without feeding the weeds, and why native plants are better for native pollinators.

Oh, and how to have your soil tested, even if nobody can figure out the computer printout recommendations. In spite of how mama and daddy never had theirs tested and their gardens seemed to do okay.

Soulful amateur gardeners who are in it just for the love of it don’t necessarily kowtow to all this.

Keeping this in mind, as a calming counter to horticulture rules, we came up with some inalienable rights, actions that may not always make sense but should be honored anyway, even if others want to argue about it.

Our unofficial proclamation hereby decrees that a gardener shall have:

The right to as many wind chimes as we can afford - bird feeders, bottle trees, and gnomes, too. The right to no grass at all, except maybe a little patch to lie on our backs and watch clouds.

The right to plant too many tomatoes, every year, and to cultivate wildflowers and other plants in the front yard, even those some neighbors may consider to be weeds. And the right to garden any hour, day or night, and wear ridiculously big floppy hats.

The right to a leaf pile, to more potted plants than can possibly be kept watered enough, and every possible recycled container. And to mispronounce plant names (and to use the h in herbs).

Gardeners shall have the right to plant any color flower next to any color flower, even if they clash on the color wheel. And the right to topiary, pollard, or otherwise prune crape myrtles or any other shrub, any way we wish. Haters, leave us alone.

Lastly, gardeners shall have the right to show our [tastefully-clothed] rear ends to neighbors as we weed.

Do I hear a motion for any amendments?

Felder Rushing is a Mississippi author, columnist, and host of the “Gestalt Gardener” on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to


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