Trust your instincts. That's what I always heard from serious gardeners. Over the years, I've amended that to: Trust your observations.
As a beginning gardener, I sought books that would explain exactly how plants behaved. I wanted to know precisely how tall my shrubs would grow and what fertilizer to feed perennials.
After consulting a few advice books, I could see that the experts rarely agreed. There was no precise formula, no sure-fire technique for success. I felt my enthusiasm wilt like a pansy in full sun.
The first year in our new home, I decided not to plant until I got the lay of the land. I read and researched, dug flower beds, observed the habits of our resident woodchuck - and gave up on the idea of a vegetable garden.
But most important, I took notes, jotting down ideas that worked, plants that performed, things I wanted to try, and how the weather affected my garden. During walks through nearby conservation land, I began to recognize certain wildflowers and to anticipate their bloom. It didn't take a course in botany to see the similarities in leaf and flower shape between my cultivated plants and their wild counterparts.
Flowers began to pop out at me that before were nameless masses in a field or a florist's bouquet. Trips to botanic gardens and flower shows whetted my appetite to know more.
After eight years of successes and as many failures, I now have a foundation of shrubs and plants that won't let me down.
Now, on occasion, a neighbor will ask my advice, and I say, "Trust your observations."
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