Often when I speak to groups here in Texas, someone will ask, “How has gardening changed since you started?”
There are some easy answers to that question. In the past 30-plus years, we Houstonians have become more aware of the environmental impacts of our gardens. We use more Gulf Coast-hardy plants. More mainstream gardeners eschew toxic landscape treatments and appreciate wildlife in their gardens.
But if I had to pick the biggest change in gardeners, it would be a sad loss of patience. Two examples: One friend bemoaned my fading pride of Barbados blooms. I pointed out its striking maroon seed pods. She just shrugged. Another friend nixed planting a pink magnolia because it only blooms in spring.
The complex Japanese concept of wabi-sabi incorporates patience and even rewards us for it. One aspect teaches us to appreciate the beauty “of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.” This means the old decaying plants in our yards are an integral part of the whole picture. It means watching out for birds, butterflies, and other insects that complete cycles of nature in our gardens. It means appreciating the beauty of barks in winter and buds in spring.
I suspect we lose patience when we garden for others, not ourselves, when we’re so consumed with how the yard looks from the street, we fail to appreciate what our gardens do for us.
So, for the New Year, I wish you patience.
—By garden writer Brenda Beust Smith of Houston, TX.