At last, I am ready to accept that my landscape may never look the way we dreamed of, planned or worked for. Surprisingly, that feeling is rather liberating. Pondering why, it occurred to me that the oft-noted steps involved in the grief process – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – may also apply to gardening. What’s more, I have reached the final stage!

The first stage: denial. When we moved to the acreage and began a lengthy process of renovating the landscape, my initial reaction was “No, it can’t be.” Thirsty plants on unirrigated property; unchecked, aggressive perennials running rampant, foundation soil slanted downward toward the house. I told myself, “All we need to do is add soil and rock, remove offending plants, install native species. It will be fine.”

The denial phase went on for a few years. The renovation – perhaps more aptly, rehabilitation – continued much longer than anticipated. Success was mixed.

Which led to the next phase: anger. How did this happen? Other people have lovely garden spaces. Why can’t we?

That was rather quickly replaced by the bargaining stage. Surely making good choices is the answer. I promised to plant more of a few species instead of everything that caught my eye while reading the gardening magazines or shopping at the garden center.

Needless to say, that promise went away as soon as garden centers brought out spring plants.

I slid into the next gardening stage: depression. After losing trees to pests, diseases and freakish Nebraska weather, it was hard not to think, “Why bother planting more; they’ll just die anyway. Maybe I should take up a new hobby: chess or perhaps bungee jumping.”

Which leads to the final gardening stage: acceptance. I will never install a plant without considering the likelihood it will be dead by the same time next year. Perhaps it is not ideal that previously sunny areas are now completely shaded or formerly shady areas are now full sun. I can accept it.

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Perfection is not possible in a garden. And that’s OK.

I will continue to garden, because there are times of the year when parts of the garden look good. Not the whole garden. Not all year. But “parts” and “sometimes” will do.

Admittedly, reaching the final stage coincided with the dead of winter – when the ground is barren, cold weather put a temporary end to battling pests, and the garden center hasn’t filled up with the latest annuals and perennials. Letting go is a bit easier right now.

Once spring arrives, we’ll see how that acceptance thing is working for me.

Mari Lane Gewecke is a Master Gardener volunteer, affiliated with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus program, and a self-employed consultant.

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