I love a challenge.  It is intoxicating to be presented with an impossible situation and actually come up a with a winning solution.  I think it is probably much like competing in sports something I was never able to do because of my asthma.  But as I conquer the challenges presented, I am constantly looking for what else needs to be fixed or learned.  What’s the next project.  Once it stops being a challenge it loses some of the attraction and I move on.   But living my life constantly challenged seemed to be all I knew.  That is until I started down this recent path of self discovery.  Why does everything have to be a challenge?  Can’t there be other intrinsic motivation for doing something?

Recently I have learned that always being in challenge mode can create stress something I can live without.  Now for me it really is more about the results and the quality of the results rather than the battle.  My strategy is simple-I listen/look at the problem to ascertain what is really going on, research quickly the issues and courses of action and make a decision.  Then there is the follow up to tweak it if needed.  It is about planning, listening and follow through; and then actually making the decisions needed  (those within your control).  And of course exercising patience.

When it comes to my passion gardening I never quite viewed it as a challenge.  More like an adventure.  I suppose  gardening is a challenge, but one that is at best a crap shoot.  You are dealing with so many factors which are out of your control you can only account for the little you can control and hope for the best.   You have  to be prepared for failure and learn from it. 

Here at the new house we took a blank slate and in a few short years have managed to create a beautiful garden or I should say gardens.  Some came to fruition quickly and others have not quite turned out as I would like.  I have gardens for every type of condition each having their own challenges:  wet shade, dry shade, dry sunny area, wet sunny area-and every one of these took research and work to make sure the right plants are growing in the right conditions.  Constant monitoring, moving of plants, amending the soil.   But the challenges in the garden don’t stop there- getting the garden to bloom 3 seasons is also important.   You have to add plants that bloom at different times so you always have color constantly.  This takes additional research, planning and patience.  But the results are breathtaking. 

I think originally I was in it for the fast fix-moving  from challenge to challenge in a frenzied pace to say OK I’m done on to the next area.  Look what I accomplished.  I was addicted to the rush of the challenge.  And all these lovely gardens may sound wonderful, but they have not ended up as I originally planned or maybe I should say didn’t quite plan well.  So this year, I decided to take a long look around and see what areas needed a make-over.  Where was the failure?  What was in my control to change.

Case in point is the area I refer to as the mud puddle in the back.  The area where all the land drains.  Every spring it floods with the snow melt and again every fall with the rain.  So of course I planted plants that could tolerate water but many didn’t quite make it and others took off more than I would have liked.  I have rain gardens where I have french drained the downspouts on both sides of the house to keep the water runoff in the garden and not flooding into the grass. And they are growing beautifully.  But this mud puddle area was becoming a yearly challenge I had not quite mastered. 

And to add insult to injury I made the worst mistake a gardener not paying attention can make-planting the invasive plant.  In the mud puddle I planted a beautiful plant-Obedient Plant(Physostegia virginiana).  The name is quite funny since it is anything but obedient.  And a wet sunny spot makes for a beautiful drift of these flowers that soon takes over.  Didn’t do quite enough research on this plant before I planted it.  Pull them up by the roots and they silently grow again from the runners that have spread underground.  You can see how beautiful they look in the pictures above.  And if they were in the meadow I would be thrilled.  But alas they are not and there is still a garden under them that is now smothered.  So began one of my biggest challenges.

In order to keep the water damage to a minimum and utilize the area best I decided to plant another rain garden-a bit different though.  This was more the traditional rain garden. So we cleared the area and pulled out all the Obedient plant and moved it to the meadow.  I dug out roots and more roots and know I will be digging them out for the next few years to control it.  We even tried to smother them as you can see here.  We dug a series of ditches that followed the flow of run off.  Bermed the areas around and planted it with water lovers-lobelia, astilbe, hardy hibiscus, sweetflag grass and iris.  Of course when we get 4 inches of rain it fills and does back up to the grass.  But I am pleased with how quickly the water is absorbed by the garden.  The big test will be in the spring when our 100 inches (on average) of snow melts. 

This challenge though I think has been the most rewarding.  And not because it appears to be successful.  I am prepared to have to make some changes.  Look we are dealing with Mother Nature here and she is not easily if at all mastered-just somewhat controlled.   But for the first time I was not frenzied.  I actually took my time.  And I have a new perspective of challenges-not as problems or stressful, but much more like a puzzle to be solved and appreciated.  An opportunity.  A great quote that has really captured how I feel is by Joshua Marine.  He says, “Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”  And so now my life has less problems and more meaningful experiences.  Opportunities that are allowing me to grow and become the beautiful person who is creating beautiful gardens in a beautiful world.



  1. Donna Forsse says:

    This all sounds so familiar. I am not a planner, but a trial by error type of person. I find a plant – or plants- I like and then find an open spot for them. I have learned so much. I found so much varying info on each plant that I did look up that I decided to trust my instincts and go with it. I have lost plants and that has been a sad experience, but I have learned to accept the fact that they weren’t meant to be in my garden. I have always loved roses but haven’t been able to have them until the Knockout roses came out. If I hadn’t given them a chance I would have never known the joy of having them. I almost didn’t buy one.l
    A joyful experience presented itself to me just the other day. I was given several Arum plants in the spring and I thought they didn’t make it. All of the sudden they are coming up. I happened to come across an article in an old Garden Gate magazine that enlightened me. They go dormant in the summer and show up in the fall to become a winter evergreen. What fun!!!!
    The joyful experiences of gardening outweigh the disappointments by a great deal. You really do have to experience the bad to appreciate the good!

    • Donna says:

      thx Donna for sharing…I definitely continue to do just the same…I think that is why we garden…the joys that just present themselves every day in the is funny to stumble across something you forgot you planted or you thought was dead and gone…glad to hear I am not an oddball and that others buy plants they like with no plan…the tuck and hope method I call it…I always tell people I have no time to pamper plants so you better be hardy to survive… 🙂

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