As members of the human race, we have had countless experiences, from the unbearably mundane to the spectacular. This influences everything, from the choices we make to the way we think. And no two people have had the same set of experiences.
We may never know how wildly different or unnervingly the same we all are. Attempting to keep up with the Joneses or conform to some standard is ultimately useless, because the only person we can truly know is ourselves.
So, what huge, navel-gazing, philosophical point am I trying to make here?
Simple. Give yourself the deliciously freeing gift of designing your garden the way you want to design it. We contain multitudes, and if you want your front stoop to look like something out of Narnia, well by golly, make it so.
If you want your garden to look like it belongs to the Addams family, then you do you, honey-boo. If you want hedges so perfectly manicured that British royals would nod their heads in polite approval, then make it happen.
Don’t limit yourself thinking you are somehow doing your community any favors. About 75 percent will either be indifferent or love your stylistic choice and the other 25 percent could just as easily have been disappointed by the bland, cookie-cutter landscape you were thinking of settling for otherwise.
“But property values!” someone cries from the back of the room.
Unless you actively have your house on the market, or have an incredibly strict HOA or landlord, I highly recommend letting this particular concern go. Should you take care of your property, keep it in good repair and otherwise treat your home with the love and respect it deserves? Absolutely. Should you purposely make your home conform to some boring standard simply because someone, someday, might not like your style as much as you do? No.
Homes and gardens are meant to be lived in and enjoyed. If you like a simple, no-nonsense landscape that you can plant and forget about, then go for it. Simple, after all, is its own kind of style. But a surprising number of people sacrifice their love of color or oddball plants for the sake of some vague sense that they will be doing harm to a collective aesthetic.
I myself have struggled with this. If I were to try and name my gardening style, I’d say it is a playful mixture of chaos and whimsy. I absolutely have clashing colors and quirky arrangements in my flowerbeds, and this year I have developed a weird obsession with hibiscus plants. (I have six, and I promise my garden isn’t big enough to justify having that many. I had to buy planters just to make them all fit.)
I’ve agonized about planting at least 50 percent of the plants in my garden, worrying what fellow designers will say or certain neighbors will think.
I’d love to tell you every single person who has seen my garden automatically fell in love and only had praise. I can’t say that.
I can say that many of my friends, family and neighbors have stopped by to compliment me on my flowers (especially the hibiscus) and that no one has started a petition to ban me from gardening (yet). I’m confident my tastes are not universally loved, and I appreciate that people who didn’t like my garden kept it to themselves and went on to have a fantastic day, safe in the knowledge that they get to design their own garden however they like.
The truth is, we can’t please everybody, and we often diminish ourselves in the process of attempting to do so. Let yourself shine. That’s my advice. I honestly think it will do a lot more good than harm.
P.S. Some of you that know my house may recognize my very own lamppost in the picture attached to this column. That is a pink mandevilla vine twining around the light. That fantasy-novel aesthetic can be achieved with a pretty flowering vine and a small wire trellis leaning against a lamppost. I personally recommend mandevilla or another annual flowering vine so you can pull it off over the winter and start a new one in the spring. Give it a little guidance as it grows and, bada-bing-bada-boom, you have just added a touch of whimsy to your garden for very little effort.