Why I’m a Terrible Gardener

Written by Hollye Dexter

I’m truly a terrible gardener. I so envy those of you with your flourishing english gardens in Southern California. Oh you, with your lovely spring vegetables, showing up with bags of ripe, plump tomatoes on my doorstep- you amaze me. For years I’ve described myself as having a brown thumb. I love the planting, and the watering, and the letting it grow part. But good gardeners tell me that you have to prune things back, cut off the weak and dying parts that are draining energy from the rest of the plant. Now that’s the part I’m terrible at. I feel “bad” about cutting dying branches and blossoms. I think…maybe if I just let them be, it’ll be okay. I don’t want to hurt the plant. So eventually the plant withers and dies. Then I feel bad about myself, and take blame for killing the plant. I’ve also made bad decisions about trying to save injured bees, who eventually sting me and fly away. But sure enough, I’ll do it again. Hmmm…
So yeah…I guess you could say gardening is a metaphor for my life. I’ve been stung many, many times over the last forty-odd years, and in my garden there is a family (of origin) tree that is very sick. My own spirit has suffered and wilted because I didn’t take the necessary action when I needed to. I never pruned that tree, even when it was killing me.
This week I had the most beautiful, warm, heartfelt Christmas with my own family- surrounded by my husband, three children, daughter-in-law and grandbaby, and Troy’s sister. I was completely restored, happy, uplifted knowing that my own family tree is an oak. Solid, tall, strong, invincible. It was a perfect holiday, if I didn’t look outside of my own four walls.
Because outside in that family of origin garden, there were withering branches, fungus, infestation on the vine, pulling energy away from my own spirit, as much as I tried to ignore it.
So today I did it. I pruned an unhealthy branch to preserve my own heart. It scared me to do it, but once it was done it wasn’t such a big deal.
Troy asked me how I felt afterward.
I said I felt like I finally stood up and took care of myself. And you know what? I didn’t feel bad. I can feel the sun on my face, the nutrients rushing back in. I feel healthier, stronger, and more hopeful.
Maybe this year I will finally blossom.

Maybe I’m learning to have a green thumb after all.

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  1. Anonymous

    Hollye, I love that you pruned your tree of origin. There are probably deep down some twigs worth saving but if not it is time to cart it to the dump and let it fester there for no one to see or get hurt by. Meanwhile plant a new garden with spirit and vigor and surround it with all your goodness and joy. It will become the most beautiful garden. It will need boundaries so take care to make them (you know me and boundaries). Love you lots.

  2. tamara

    Speaking as one who has also done some pruning of the family tree — sometimes that branch that had to be pruned will grow back, healthier than before. And sometimes not. I didn't speak to my mother for the five years preceding her death, and I don't have a whit of regret. About a year after she died though, I was able to start spending time with my dad and brother again. I had changed as a person, my expectations to them had changed. I could manage their goofiness (to put it nicely) for the most part, it wasn't a mortal wound as it had been in the past. While that branch that has grown back is not flourishing — branches on the family tree require care from everyone involved, and my dad and my brother are just not good at nurturing — I am glad it's there.

    It will never be as strong as the branches of my family of choice, my family in deed as I call them, but it's there and I'm glad for that.

  3. Hollye Dexter

    I just love both of your beautiful comments Madge and Tamara.
    Madge, I'm learning to take care of myself and not pick up bees.
    Tamara- I'm so glad to hear those branches have been able to somewhat stay intact. Who knows what will happen with mine. the sickness is pretty deep, but I've seen miracles…you never know.

    In the meantime, I'm the plant that got pruned and I feel great!

  4. amy ferris

    you are such an inspiration. such a gorgeous amazing inspiration. because of you, i am going to prune & cut & no, not be scared.

    i love you hollye dexter.
    you are the MOST PERFECT GARDENER.

  5. Anonymous

    Hollye – what an extraordinary experience. You've taken me on yet another private journey which opens your world and everyone else's…thank you…linda anonymous


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