The best and hardest thing to give your garden is time…

Fathers day 006

Try as I might,  all I need is time.

As I look around Helen’s Haven, evaluating what she needs to shine for upcoming garden tours and photo shoots, I realize all she needs is time. Most gardens do. I don’t need to add a little something here or there. The design is set. Now all I need to do is wait it out. This is the hardest part.

Nothing I do will make the boxwood fill in as I imagine they will to offer repose between the formal and causal – the boundary demarking my garden between tameness and wildness.

Nothing I do will make the verbena hurry up and fill in the void at the mailbox.

Nothing I will do will leap the Rose of Sharon into adulthood.

By most standards, my garden is full, lush, and mature. It is I who sees the holes, flaws, and flubs. Helen’s Haven is not a garden for everyone. No doubt, when you visit for the first time, high maintenance comes to mind. With dismay, I can say, Helen’s Haven is not a high maintenance garden. Herein lays the problem. I like to putter in my garden and I run out of things to do, so I start tinkering. It is this tinkering that must stop. All my garden needs now is time.

Don’t be mistaken, there are many areas of improvement. Often times I wonder how I would have designed her if the children were not part of the equation or if I had unlimited funds. But this is my garden for here and now; for now and for 10 years from now. And at the end of the day, all she needs is time.

As the Raleigh regional representative for the Garden Conservancy Open Days tour for many years, I’ve selected gardens for tour. And before that, I did it for other local garden tours. I receive many calls from gardeners to consider their garden for tour. Often times, these gardens are newly installed. The excitement to share their gardens with others is contagious. Breathtaking designs and displays; most diffently, gardens worthy of the Garden Conservancy – in a year or two.

To the causal visitor, a brandy new garden may be beyond their expectations, yet, it is still best to wait to see the garden in her full glory. Only time can give this.

Knowing that a new garden is sitting on someone’s drawing board right now is comforting to me. Maybe right now, the merits over a Kousa versus Native Dogwood are being discussed; flagstone paths or stamped concrete? Brick or boulder walls? Curvilinear or linear lines? The choices are many and can be overwhelming.

Maybe the owner of the new garden is strolling her newly installed garden right now and while knowing her garden is but an infant, she sees her mature, filled in and ready to become a remarkable garden of the future. Only time will tell.

I will rest in the comfort that weeds defy time as do shrubs that need pruning, and grass that needs mowing. There is always something that needs to be done. But for now, I’m done trying to fix what only time can give.

Helen Yoest
Gardening With Confidence

P.S. The “Helen’s Haven” marker was gift from a my dear garden blogger buddy, Tina at

In The Garden

P.P.S.  And of course, it never hurts to add  more mulch!



  1. It is the place where we make the hard decisions about what things will simply not get done in a given week. Raquel Garden

  2. tina said

    Too funny on the mulch. Your garden is very lush and mature and I can see where it would not be high maintenance (except when garden reworking time comes:). I love your garden. Not sure which part impressed me the most but all the visitors will be most impressed with its design, fullness and wildlife. Actually I think I liked your formal garden part in the back the best. That and your planting nook. It is so awesome! And all parts fit together. I hope you’ve got all the plants identified now and are ready. Relax. Enjoy. It will go fine! Glad you enjoy your marker stone!

  3. […] As I look around Helen’s Haven, evaluating what she needs to shine for upcoming garden tours and photo shoots, I realize all she needs is time. Most gardens do. I don’t need to add a little something here or there. Here is the original post: The best and hardest thing to give your garden is time … […]

  4. Helen I was in my garden most of the day and very disappointed in myself. I wish I could feel as you do that waiting is all that is needed…but I am not even done designing and the process is getting further behind each day.

    I pulled up everything in my back beds today because I was so frustrated in the plant choices and their fight to grow well together. Do we get this picky as we get older? Am I going from cottage garden to more manicured? I have no faith in myself lately and I know that some of that is because my mind is other places.

    I also felt more confident when I worked at a garden center and had access to what I needed. I’ve given some pretty heavy thinking toward going back to work. I don’t like being out of the know. I’m going to propagate some cuttings this week and stick those in the bare spots I just created. I hope that satisfies me a bit.

  5. Oh Anna, Breathe! With my garden coaching hat on, let me give you this advice. Time matters when you are waiting for your garden to fill in as much as it does to plan and plant. Our tendency is to re-act, not act. You are not alone.

    Take photos of your space. Print out several copies. Now, just play with scale, rhythm, curves, views from the inside, goals for the outside. All to often we design our gardens based on what is blooming in the garden centers. Take this time for this simple exercise. Once you see the balance you want, then work out the details. Sun, moisture, evergreen, flowers, 4-season interest, etc. In the meantime, continue to amend your soil (like I know you have been.) That will not be wasted. In fact, relish in that a bit – all is not lost. More later. I think I’ll do a post on this concept soon. H.

    • Thank you for the support and advice. This yard is at least twice the size of any I’ve ever owned. The knowledge about gardening that I do posses drives me to perfection and I’m not striking a balance in bloom time and good bones. Maybe I’m a product of working at the garden center and seeing that wow all the time. I am struggling a bit. The back beds are especially frustrating. I look forward to your upcoming post about this–let me know!

  6. My garden needs time, too. My time. It’s summer and the weeds are everywhere. Well, no quite, but I have my work cut out for me today.

  7. lol Commonweeder! You got that right. I just finished a weeding session in the Winter Garden at the JC Rauslton Arboretum with the Raleigh Garden Club. Then decided since I’m a mess, I might as well mess in my garden too. Hot, but happy. No weed was safe. I’ll pat myself on the back though, I am such a dedicated mulcher, I’m able to keep many weeds at bay. H.

  8. Dave said

    It’s hard to leave plants alone isn’t it! The tinkering in the garden is something I’m familiar with. Since we inherited a blank canvas everything started small. We’re only now seeing trees beginning serious growth and the perennials really filling out. Time is tricky to handle!

  9. Yup Dave, time is tricky; but truly needed. H.

  10. […] possible.  And since I made such a big deal in a blog post about me messing around in the garden The best and hardest thing you can give your garden is time I needed an outlet to tinker with something other than the garden per […]

  11. […] 10.  I’m gonna stop waking up in the morning and going straight to the window to see if the boxwood edge in the back connected during the night. The Best and Hardest Thing to Give Your Garden is Time […]

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