The Imperfect Garden follows one gardener’s journey as she discovers her “trash heap” of a backyard, unearths bulbs and seedlings buried by time and neglect, and carves out a whimsical landscape dotted by decades of successful and failed gardening experiments. The Imperfect Garden explores the elements of determination, disappointment, and surprise that shaped both her landscape and her life.
Praise for The Imperfect Garden
“ She taught me how to accept the death of a plant and celebrate the life of my garden… a rich, dark and nourishing compost for the soul.” —D. Peytraud, Artist, Teacher, Oakland, CA
“Sara is an astute observer of the inner and outer life of a garden. She has a way of making the ordinary magical.” —W. Friesema, Writer, Honolulu, HI
“This book gave me confidence to face my gardening demons.” —P. Ferguson, zeromilediet.blogspot, Oakland, CA
“I’m not a gardener… yet. But her writing is like a garden itself, working at many levels at once. She lives among nature as a participant. You will see your garden and all of nature with a different perspective.” —K. Percy, Oakland, CA
Excerpts from The Imperfect Garden
From “Trash Heap”
When I first met my garden, it looked more like a fascinating trash heap. Filled with decades of debris, the garden sprawled through a double-deep lot in a neighborhood once known for apricot and plum orchards. The garden was a tangled tale of brush, busted glass and brick, reminders of a harsher time. Thorny blackberry vines and indomitable bamboo shoots forced their way up, like giant fists announcing victory. And that was just for starters. And so I came to gardening not as a visionary with the intent to tame and make order, but as an explorer, fingers roughened, dirty, and drawn to the excitement of discovery. The garden had something to teach me. I simply had to watch, listen, and learn what it had to say.
From “Uninvited Guest”
I still can’t say how they all landed where they did, much less where they came from—the mismatched shrubs and bulbs and unnamed perennials that dot this landscape. Despite the utter thrill of emptying my car of flats and flats of brand-new nursery purchases, when I surveyed my emerging landscape, it seemed as if most of the plant materials that succeeded and thrived had come to me by way of mystery.
From “Letting Go“
So much of gardening is destruction, eradication, saying no. Brown limbs have to be cut away, dead leaves removed. Even young, eager shoots must be severed. Perfectly good fruit must be plucked off before ripening in order to allow other fruit to peak. Death in the garden is rampant, celebratory, a pathway to the future. The task of gardening requires an equal penchant for destruction and creation, one following the other so closely they often appear to be the same.
I slump down on a brick step to catch my breath. From that vantage point I see that the rose campion has overtaken its pot and the gladiolas have out-distanced their stakes. I try to get up, but the shovel is blocking my knee, my shoes are caked with mud, and a rose thorn juts dangerously close to my elbow. Besides, I’m too exhausted to move. But I’m not ready to stop. Not quite yet. Not as long as the light lasts.
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Photographs from Imperfect Garden by Rachel Michaelsen