Gardening as Creative Outlet – Yes, Even You of the Terrible Black Thumb!

You’d be amazed by how many blog posts there are on having the black thumb of death. This is reassuring to me because I now know that I am  not alone.

If you’re like me, you’ve tried to have a green thumb. Each year you find new resolve and promise to pay better attention to the needs of your plants. You buy a gorgeous pot of flowers and you say to yourself “this one I will devote all my energy to, I will water it and put it in the best light and…etc”. Next thing you know you look up from whatever you’re doing to see the carcass of a desiccated object, presumably a plant because it’s in a pot and you realize that yes, 2 weeks have gone by without a thought for this wonder of nature now departed.

I grew up with a mom and dad who happily and successfully gardened and an aunt who was a plant whisperer. Compared to them everything I touched died. I think I killed a venus fly trap by feeding it too many flies.

But I’m here to bring hope to those as afflicted as I am.

You may feel like it’s a curse and therefore it’s insurmountable. I think it’s not a sticking curse, it can be  overcome, but first you have to figure out your own character and habits. Maybe you just don’t have the disposition to pay attention to details like soil quality, rotational cycles, frost warnings, pest control, sunlight, watering etc. Maybe it”s about proximity- out of sight out of mind, so you need to keep it in view, like on a stool in front of the toilet so every time you heed the call of nature you’re also reminded to nurture. I’ve learned to accept that I am not a detail nor a pattern person. My gardening style reflects my creative style : a wild burst of enthusiasm and ideas, the urge to get started, an impressive focus that lasts 2-4 hours that  just as suddenly dissipates requiring me to walk away and give it space.

This works for painting and drawing… not so much for living plants.

But wait! This can be done! Hear me out. Gardening can be satisfying as a creative outlet, in its color, design and in just the satisfaction and pride of helping something grow.

I’ve developed a philosophy that fits my personality: Family and friends understand that though I may not write or call often I love them still and when we see each other again, we’ll pick up where we left off.

The same can essentially be applied to plants:

If you are still alive when I get back, you’re my kind of plant.

Okay.. not entirely the same, but you get my drift. The answer to your problem is: SUCCULENTS!! and a few choice  low-maintenance plants.(I would say cactuses, but they are so low maintenance, that I outright forget them, literally, for years.)

Succulents are beautiful, they propagate themselves, they require little water, love the heat and sun ( some even thrive in cold), and when they are under pressure (root bound, dehydrated etc.) they develop beautiful colors (nurseries deliberately stress their succulents so they look more appealing). And should you want to start a new plant in a pretty pot, simply snip off one of the heads and push it into the soil of your new pot. Done. It will develop roots over the next week or so.

Chilean Needle Grass is particularly satisfying. It loves the rain, but it also is unphased by scorching days. It will propagate itself like crazy (probably why it’s been upgraded to an invasive species). This year we had to pull little baby grass tufts out from all over our yard. They’re easy to pull though, so if you like where its chosen its home, leave it, if you don’t, pull it.

Also bulb plants. Very satisfying as they will appear as if by magic every year. Check out our Irises coming up:

“But wait, what about edible plantings?!?” you ask. Well…I don’t know what to say. I’m fortunate to have a husband who likes to garden and for whom a regular pattern of watering and weeding is fun. Let me say that such activities can bring joy to the creative soul. Weeding can be meditative and its repetitive nature leaves one’s mind free to wander into imagination land. Some great creative ideas have arisen from such gardening moments. That said, there is not much in the way of edibles that would do well with neglect.  If I had to go with one veggie that would most likely survive under my sole care, perhaps even an Apocalypse, it would be the zucchini. But you’ve got to love the stuff and you have got to be prepared to make all sorts of creative choices when dealing with the harvest. I mean, zucchini everything: zucchini bread, zucchini stir fry, soup, pancakes, you name it. Also, if you do not keep on top of said harvest, you WILL have a beast on your hands:

zucchini baby

And getting rid of it after making an emotional connection can be tough.

Accidental gardening is fantastic. This year we’ve discovered lettuce growing in the middle of our lawn, carrots and garlic maturing in the boxes far from their  initial plantings.  I could not keep my basil and oregano alive to save my life last year – but this year it is thriving at the base of our garden steps and around the roses.  I’m a fan. Mother nature will take over if you let her.

All I’m saying is that even as the erratic creative that you are, you too can keep some things alive – you just have to figure out what they are.Yes, in the process many plants will have to sacrifice their lives. But many will thrive sending your confidence soaring. Slow and steady, trial and error, your black thumb might soon turn a bluish shade of green.



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