the beauty of imperfection, or Joy in the garden

Sometimes when I walk through my garden all I can see is how imperfect it is. I have some very beautiful roses right now, flowers that are almost complete perfection, but there, beside that stunning blossom is a shriveled flower and over there are yellow leaves and there's some black spot and, oh, look, a caterpillar ate those leaves and there are holes in those petals and look at that munched bud...

I like to take my photos so that all you see is the perfection and that is fine. That's what we all do. But it's not entirely honest, is it? I love to look at blogs and magazines and design books, immersing myself in the beautiful images. Don't you? Whether it's simply eye candy or inspiration or curiosity or to escape the doldrums of our lives. But recently when I was looking at some photos on a blog I started feeling something uncomfortable. I'm not sure if it was jealousy or envy, but looking at the photos of beautiful gardens I wasn't enjoying it anymore or looking for ways to incorporate fun ideas into my yard or for possible plants to add to the mix. I was looking at the photos and thinking, why can't my garden look like that?

When someone comes into my garden I usually say something about how much work I need to do in it, or mention how weedy it is. As if I need to apologize for its imperfections. I love my garden. It is a daily source of Joy for me. Is it perfect? No. Should it be? I don't think so.

Maybe if all I did was garden (or if I paid a gardener... but, really, what's the point in that?) it could look perfect, but my time is divided by many interests and that's the way I like it.

So, after looking at those photos and feeling those uncomfortable feelings, I went outside. First one flower and then another caught my eye.

I grabbed my camera and I started shooting. And looking. My garden is beautiful. Yes, there are weeds and yes it is messy and yes there's brown grass (from lack of rain and from dog pee). My roses have black spot and just about every plant could use some dead heading and trimming, but surrounding me is a GARDEN, not a photograph of a garden.

A garden is a living, breathing entity. It evolves and changes and as much as we try to reign control over it, a garden is going to do its own thing to some degree. Plants will die. Weeds will invade. Surprise flowers will appear. There will be droughts or too much rain or not enough sun. There will be diseases and damage from bugs and wild animals (and not so wild animals). It will be too hot or too cold. There will be shade where there wasn't before or sun where there used to be shade. But there will be flowers and fruit. There will be birds and butterflies. And it will be magic.

MAGIC. Think about it.

I didn't deadhead my lavender plants after their first bloom and they are looking pretty scraggly. I kept thinking, in the back of my mind (where I keep that enormous to-do list) that eventually I should get around to trimming them up nice and neat. And then one day I saw the goldfinches. They were eating seeds from those spent flower heads. What would I rather have, a neat and tidy garden or one colorful with birds?

Life is imperfect. Life is messy. Life can sometimes be ugly, but it can also be beautiful. Beautiful and magical and full of Joy. What do you choose to focus on? The scraggliness or the presence of goldfinches? The blackspot or the roses?

Embrace the imperfection and look around you with fresh eyes. There is so much beauty and Joy and magic to be discovered. Discover it!

p.s. I've put my Joy list over on my Facebook page. Why don't me join me there?


  1. A rather profound post, Anne! I love your phrase, " What do you choose to focus on? The scraggliness or the presence of goldfinches?".
    When I look at the photos of your garden, I see beauty and life. I have never gardened and think it would be wonderful to have flowers like these in my yard. You've made some very good points that could be applied to many situations in life!

  2. What a lovely post! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  3. What a fantastic post full of truth and wisdom to ponder. Our garden is never neat (mainly because gardening isn't an option for me & hubbie works long hours) but it is pretty & well loved. Because we're not too precious this allows the kids to have a go at gardening & discover the wonder of growing & caring for nature. To be honest I'm often not as keen on neatly bordered gardens, they quite often feel false as if the plant & wildlife aren't allowed to be their true selves. I like wild flowers & even purposely keep some weeds that I think are pretty. I like trees even if they do cause shadow that can mean less than perfect grass.

    This post also spoke to me on a personal level because maybe I need to accept my imperfections & be a little kinder to myself concerning them. Thank you for your comment on my last post which also helps me to work towards this; your support is so appreciated & means a lot.

    Kat Xx

  4. Thanks for making me feel better about MY weed patch . . . . er . . . . .garden!

  5. Bravo! Well said. You're right about the fine line between the perfect lives we project and the reality and I've felt that feeling of failure too after looking at too many blogs. But I'm with you - there are too many things I like doing to be able to keep the garden perfect. So the dog trampled my yellow daisies - but she's happy all day out there. It's give and take isn't it. PS You could put that piece in the Opinion pages of the NY Times and it wouldn't be put of place - it's great writing :)

  6. I think your garden is beautiful Anne. As you say, life is imperfect. If we spend too much time making our garden 'perfect' we wouldn't have the time to sit and enjoy it would we?

  7. Anne, it is gorgeous! Have a look at my pictures I posted today - the house we moved to is on a bush block. My goal is to clear around the house and make it look like yours! I am like that with my house and mess - funny the insecurities we have! xx

  8. What a lovely essay on gardening for pleasure, not perfection! You're right, we can look at all the lovely photos online and feel bad or we can go out into our gardens and soak up the beauty, weeds and all. We are all in a state of constant change but that's how gardens (and people) grow. Thanks for sharing your world.

  9. I love this post Anne! Thank you! It's so true. There is so much beauty in imperfection, even in my messy children and messy home and lively neighbourhood and ... I just need to open my eyes afresh!

  10. Thank you for all the comments. I'm so glad my thoughts spoke to you. For me personally, and I'm sure for many of you as well, all of life is imperfect and messy. Being able to see the beauty and the Joy in the imperfection and the mess makes all the difference.


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