15 Things on My Gardening “To Done” List

A mix of soft and sweet, red and fiery
A mix of soft and sweet alyssum, dramatic red geranium and dependable yellow pansies

With the arrival of spring I typically over-populate my “To Do” list as I emerge from the cold weather doldrums (yes, even in SE Coastal Georgia, this Michigan transplant suffers during the few cold days and nights we call winter), no longer able to excuse the neglect I’ve visited upon my small container garden. We moved this spring, but I view my garden as a priority, not an extravagance. And even though I’d managed to fill some containers with fresh potting soil and flowers for the deck of our new home, it wasn’t perfect. With no time or energy to spare. I was in danger of sliding down that slippery slope of “I’m not enough”: my “To Do” list was getting me down.

Then I read Gardening Gone Wild’s post on  making a TO DONE list instead. So I took the suggestion to sit down and record – from the beginning – my accomplishments. As I made my list, my despair dissolved and I became more engaged in the moment. The excitement of a new home, a new garden.

My dad planted primrose in a bed alongside the driveway

Here Are 15 Things from My TO DONE List:

1. Had my own garden when I was still in grade school. It won the children’s division of a city-wide gardening competition. And better yet, it provided a life-long link to my dad, who instructed me every step of the way, while allowing me complete freedom of expression.

2. Found a sprouted peach pit in the backyard, planted it, watched it grow into a tree. It never bore fruit because it didn’t have a ‘mate’, but fruit wasn’t the point. At that age I was delighted to have ‘saved a life’!

3. Actively – if not always willingly – participated in the family vegetable garden. Those home grown, home canned tomatoes were the best!

4. As a young wife and mother, I always planted something of my own, wherever I lived, whatever I could afford. From houseplants to seed catalogs to trading with neighbors and family, I tried it all.

Roadside wildflowers
Roadside wildflowers

5. Fell in love with wildflowers.  I noted dates of discovery in my wildflower field guides. Getting lost on drives in the countryside meant I might spot some new roadside flower I hadn’t seen before.

6. Fell in love with perennials. After a long Michigan winter, I welcomed those first tender green shoots.

7. Planned and planted a three-season color garden. Flowering bulbs in early spring. Summer bedding plants mixed among perennials, followed by autumn’s mums. In winter I took a break.

8. Introduced my son to his first paying job: transplanting seedlings at a local nursery. He lasted only long enough to buy a pup-tent for camping in the back yard, but when he bought his first home, he asked me to help him to install a flower garden. And so another gardening generation evolved.

9. Made my first all-native garden – in sparse, rocky soil! After a move to central New Jersey, my next-door neighbor and I (she from Colorado, me from Michigan) would get the kids off to school, attach trailers to our garden tractors and off we’d go in search of peat, likely saplings, plants and interesting rocks to use between our two homes on top of a steep and rocky hill. I’m sure we were a sight to behold, but we didn’t care!

10. Flourished after surviving drastic gardening culture shock. From Michigan to New Jersey to Georgia. I floundered to adjust to new planting time tables. Not much survived those first couple of seasons.

Roses in my backyard California home became my first photographic subjects
Roses in my backyard California home became my first photographic subjects

11. Became a gardening ‘newbie” at age 56. Moved to Southern California. Plants, trees, bushes and shrubs were all different. For the first time since I was a child, I was clueless about the names of almost everything I saw. But gorgeous roses grew everywhere. Effortlessly! What a joy.

Desert flowers in bloom and The poppy fields of California
Desert flowers in bloom and The poppy fields of California

12. Experienced my first desert in bloom. I perused wildflower hotline sites until one March they buzzed with talk of a banner year in the deserts. We spent the weekend in Julian, near the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I can still feel the quality of the clean, dry air. See the purity of color.

13. I walked the native poppy fields in California! Yes. I do get excited about seeing the grand, the colorful, the iconic. I was told the fields used to stretch from the foothills to the Pacific. They are much diminished now but still stunning when conditions are right.

14. The Georgia southeast coastal garden. My knowledge of coastal gardening is still evolving. I have few native plants, but that just leaves room to grow.

My newest garden in progress
My newest garden – still in progress – on our deck

15. My entire garden is now contained. Container gardening is different. Not better or worse, just different. New opportunities each year and that suits me. I have flowers and herbs in all stages of life for photographing, displaying and sharing. Which gives me a chance to mention my daughter as well. She did not catch the gardening bug, but she is an enthusiastic fan of my flower images, frequently using them for her online profile and cover photos.

A fiery red dahlia - a new addition in my garden
A fiery red dahlia – a new addition in my garden

So that’s my gardening journey to date. There’s still much still to write, but I’m encouraged. I see myself differently today. I see that little girl who knew how she wanted her garden to look; the young mom linked to past and future generations; the challenges met with enthusiasm; the eagerness to try new things, new ways, while still honoring traditions. Countless hours of being happily in the moment, creating, nurturing, connecting.

Will you make a “To Done” list, too? Just start at the beginning and work forward to the present. What stands out to you? What did you learn about yourself? Write and tell me what you love the most about your garden.

All photos copyright Nancy Kirkpatrick Photography

Thanks to Gardening Gone Wild for the original “To Done” list by Fran Sorin

2 Comments

  • Jackie

    May 15, 2016 at 12:33 am

    This is such a productive way to look at one’s life, through your accomplishments rather than what’s on the standard “to-do” list! I learned a lot about you here and you added fuel to my fire to become a drifter and float from one wildflower field to another!! Great blog Nancy!

    • Nancy

      May 15, 2016 at 11:44 pm

      Thank you, Jackie. It was so uplifting to think in this way. Love the image of you drifting grom field to field! Thanks for sharing that.