Carolyne Roehm is one of our favorite lifestyle experts. Elegant and thoughtful, her writing is like her gardens: full of beauty and interest. She was kind enough to give us an exclusive look at her new book, At Home In The Garden, out October 27th.
I have previously observed that, in many respects, having a garden is like being in love. You can read about it in books, but practical, hands on experience remains the best—indeed, the only—true teacher. Benjamin Franklin noted that we never learn from our successes, only our mistakes, and what you learn from gardening is that creating a bed of roses is no bed of roses. It requires long, hard work, and a mountain of learning by doing, to get your arms around the challenges of making, and keeping, a garden. The surprise is that, while there’s never a guarantee of success, once you have been around the block (or boxwood) a few times, some things come with surprising ease. Which is a lot like love as well.
The things you learn from love and the garden, excruciating as they may be, inevitably make you smarter, more mature, ever more capable of fielding cosmic curveballs, and surprisingly, more at peace. The lesson above all: from neither a partner nor a patch of soil can you get what cannot be given—they must be taken for what they offer, not blamed for what they can never be. If you accept the limits of both, and learn how to coax forward their strengths, well, your most ardent wishes might not come true, but what you cultivate will be genuine, special, fully realized in every particular, and more satisfying than you might ever have imaged. Or else you’ll cut your losses and move on.
The best gardens are the ones that look good in all seasons. If you can create a landscape that doesn’t only come to life in spring, it will be a source of pleasure—even when it’s too cold to venture out.