Friday, March 11, 2011

My First Time

Every year during weeding time I recall the memory of my first attempt to grow flowers.

I was living in a tiny place barely big enough for a small goldfish and me.  And I knew nothing about gardening.  Absolutely nothing.  But this place had a small patch of land between the house and the walk to the front door.  Just about 1 ft. wide, and about 4 ft. long.

It was spring and I thought it would be cheery to have some flowers instead of a barren patch of land.  But I didn't want to spend a lot of money.  I was renting.  I was poor.  And cheap.  And I wouldn't have known where to buy a flower for planting anyway.

So, I purchased seeds.  I don't remember what kind of flower seeds I bought, but I do remember I bought about 10 or 11 packages.  I wanted a lot of flowers.  And I read the back and planted them just the right depth.  But I didn't space them out.  I wanted a lot of flowers, so I planted every seed.

Flowers were certain to be in my future.

Except, I was dating some dud (no, that's not a typo for dude).  And one day he noticed that there were a lot of little sprouts coming up in my flower garden.  He said "You'd better get all those weeds out of there."

OH!!!!  I hadn't thought about weeds!  Weeds!  What a horrible word!  The thought of those weeds smothering out my precious flowers was disturbing to me.  So, the next Saturday I spent all day weeding each and every weed out of that patch of ground.

And I waited for my flowers to come up.

I was so ignorant about all things gardening that I didn't even realize that those little weeds I had pulled up were actually my flowers.  I wondered for months where my flowers were and why they didn't come up.  Not a one!  Very disappointed, I supposed perhaps the seeds were old.  Only until years later, when I had my next garden, did I realize what I had done.

If I were a new gardener, I would tell myself to plant shrubs.  And if I were renting and didn't want to leave the plants, I would advise container gardening.  And if I could only afford a few packs of seeds, I would say - weed first, plant your seeds, then don't weed anymore!!!!

What was your first big mistake?  And what advice would you give to new gardeners?


  1. Fun post. We are all always learning, aren't we? That's partly why gardening is so much fun. My big mistake was buying a potted cattleya orchid, which was so beautiful and so mysterious. In fact, it was so alien I just couldn't keep it alive. It died slowly in the space of several months. I couldn't understand why. The worst thing was I went and bought another one (how stupid can one be?), and it died too, a slow and miserable death. Again, I don't know why. But I learned: no more orchids for me:)

  2. Am I allowed to laugh? I know you must have been upset with the mistakes but your story seem hilarious. I'm sure I've done the same thing before, pulling out the wrong 'weed' and not even knowing... probably. At least you knew, so you are ahead. :)

  3. I so enjoyed your funny story of being a novice gardener! What a disappointment and at the same time good lesson that early experience must have been.
    I was lucky enough to have learned to garden from my mother. Her garden was the perfect school and my education served me well when I had my own first garden. That is not to say that I didn't make mistakes! I made lots of them.

  4. so many mistakes we make as we learn mine was planting mint and Obedient can never get rid of them....

  5. Masha - how funny! I think you were brave just to try one! Of course, we have to try at least two times, don't we?

    One - I was never upset. I was completely baffled. I didn't know enough to be upset! :)

    3dogs - You were lucky to have a gardening mother! Of course, the mistakes we make ourselves make a bigger impression, don't they?

    Donna - I am lucky enough not have ever grown either of those. Probably just because I didn't happen to see them when they were being offered for sale. It took me a couple of times of getting 'passalong' plants to realize why they were being passed along!

  6. Oh that must have been frustrating once you realized. That's one thing I always have a hard time with. In spring I'm never sure about the seedlings popping up - to leave them or pull them. I think my biggest problem when I started was believe that plants didn't need light. I was perfectly content planting sun lovers in the shadiest spots without a thought that they wouldn't survive. That didn't work out so well!

  7. Dear Holley, I love this posting. I have made so many mistakes, I can't remember my first one. I remember in the very early days, I pictured a beautiful climbing rose growing over an arbor at the side of the house. Like you, I followed the instructions except for one - it needed full sun and I planted it in the shade. It was some time before I realized why it died. I'm still learning. P x

  8. Mm hmm. Today we agreed we will go round the garden - remove what the summer took - and plant more of what IS happy! Always new, always learning ...

  9. Love finding other garden bloggers! Please come link up to Cottage Flora Thursday's - i am your newest follower! xoox

  10. Marguerite - yes, even years later when I finally realized what happened, it was frustrating because I could have just left well enough alone and it would have turned out better! I, too, still have to really look at new plants popping up. I have weeded several different types of perennials that I thought were weeds!

    Pam - I think that is the most common. I still plant things, then look at the tab and say "oh, I thought you were a shade plant!". Well, by then I've already planted it in a shady spot and it looks so pretty, I just leave it. Of course, in Texas a lot of sun plants love a little afternoon shade!

    Elephant's Eye - Yes, always new, always learning. I think that's why I love gardening. It's satisfying, but still challenging because next year can always be a little better. Thanks for commenting.

    Fishtail Cottage - I will certainly check out your blog. Thanks for following.

  11. Tee hee. I have made so many mistakes, and I still make them every year. I can't remember the first one. I suppose my biggest mistake was being stubborn in my quest to fight off the rabbits. I spent years putting pepper sprays, cat litter, and human hair (ick), and numerous other repellents around my plants. And now I just try to plant things the rabbits don't like. Or I put fences around the plants. I love this post!

  12. Oh where to start with the! Probably the incredibly invasive Mexican petunia I planted 10 years ago. I wanted it to spill over a wall It now grows aggressively through my lawn and not one bit grows in the bed where it would spill over the wall!

  13. Oh, Holley, what a fun post! I did the same thing the first year I planted California poppies - I planted the seeds in the winter and completely forgot about them by spring and pulled up every little seedling...

  14. I just realised the same mistake today when I pulled out my red amaranth seedlings thinking they were weeds. Then when I was about to pull another, I realised those are red in colour, and remembered I sown some red amaranth seeds last week! Aarrrghhh..Ive pulled out so many! Your dud really made me laugh though! Hahaa...

  15. Dear Holley - still making mistakes after all these years mainly wrong plant in wrong place though out of over-optimism now instead of ignorance. Agree about the shrubs - structure first and details after. I rent and have laid down many plants which one day may have to leave behind for posterity. It's the zen gardening of non-attachment! Thanks for this enjoyable post

  16. Oh what a great gardening story! I learned gardening from my mother and when I went through the Master Gardener course I learned even more. But I am always learning. Gardening is never dull and always an adventure! Thanks for sharing your experience and I am sure you are glad you got rid of that dud!

  17. PlantPostings - Thankfully we don't have a lot of rabbits around here. What an ordeal! We do have deer, though, and I am learning that a fence is necessary in order to be completely deer-proof.

    Cat - that is funny. Invasives are a bit like 2 year olds - with a mind of their own and hard to control. Thanks for your story.

    Stacy - thanks for admitting you did the same thing! I still don't have the courage to plant any more seeds in the flower beds.

    p3chandan - I hope the ones remaining come up and are beautiful. It's frustrating, though, isn't it?

    Laura - It would be hard to leave plants behind, but I suppose people do it all the time when they sell their homes. I hope your landlord appreciates your improvements!

    Karin - It's true that we are continually learning. I suppose that's part of the challenge. We can always learn something - whether its a new plant, a new way of design, or just not to pull up seedlings!

  18. The mistake that I've been making for nearly fifty years is planting too closely without allowing for growth from a tiny plant to a monsterous shrub. I still do it but I'm better at it now.

    My advice is to find a nearby mentor -- not to be confused with Blotanical Mentors -- someone whom you can watch their garden's growth and see methods that work where you plant and grow. That was another of my mistakes: that of believing that things that grew well in another climate were going to perform the same in my subtropical patch.

  19. NellJean - Good advice. As far as plant placement, I've gone backward. I used to read labels, plant accordingly. Then I (somehow!) started acquiring so many plants that I now just squeeze them in.

  20. Hi Holley, It's raining in southern Alabama...and I wanted to read your blog before I go on my adventures of doing what I want in the garden vs. what I should be. That being said...and I know this post is old...but plant annuals...I am glad I was smart enough to know's non-committal, instant garden, and it gives you an idea of the environment and how it would look.

    1. I rarely plant annuals, but when I do, I am always impressed. They really do fill in the gaps, and last all season (sometimes several seasons). Great advice!


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