Kondo-ing my garden

Reading March’s post about Marie Kondo and what to keep/what to cull brought to mind my garden, and the changes I hope to make to it in the coming months.   I have not read any of Marie Kondo’s work because I’m already OCD as hell about folding things like sheets and towels and underwear and socks – and if I had more time, my spice closet (yes, CLOSET.  don’t judge!!!) would be even more OCD’d than it is.  That type of tidying is a great stress-reducer and in my most anxiety-riddled moments, I take even greater comfort in  washing (anything) , folding(everything), ironing (when I’m on the brink?  I (gasp!) iron SHEETS!!!).  Life is a series of uncertain moments – and while I’m usually okay with the general idea of that, I’m even better able to be okay with it when the things I can control (like my sock drawer) are in order.  Sunday night, I am a vacuuming fiend (okay – it’s a small house, so it’s not like I’m vacuuming Versailles.  whole thing takes about 10 minutes, tops).  Dishes are put away so that when Monday 6 am rolls around, I don’t collapse in a vale of tears at the sight of a cup in the sink.  Yeah, I said it – a CUP.  It’s Winter and I’m totally off the rails.  Bring me a dark hot chocolate and a Valium.

However.  The Garden?  Whole ‘nother bag of peanuts.  It’s not weeds, thankfully (though there are some moments – last July Kay came over and gasped ‘are you trying to grow the State Champion RAGWEED???  Omg- is THAT what that is?   I thought it was a sumac that, in a moment of addled-mindedness, I’d planted and forgotten about – it’s happened.  And, to be fair, she did say that few people (even experienced gardeners like moi) know what actual ragweed looks like – especially when it’s 8. Feet. Tall. (as was mine) because, frankly, it usually doesn’t grow that big in controlled spaces. But this was in the nitrogen-rich Hill Border.  Stick a bean in that border.  Go ‘head.  I dare you.  In 6 weeks you’ll be able to go steal that goose.

But I digress.  Surprise!

So.  It’s not the weeds.  Rather, it was….y’know, it sounds weird..but it was the plethora of pots.  And myriad plantings.  And more pots.  Lots of finicky little pots of different colors and shapes filled with gawdknowswhat…….little seedlings that became a bunch of  marigolds that the butterflies loved, some salvia I got at Walmart for 88cents because it was manky AF and it was 88cents and I saaaved it and omgosh, the hummers ate that stuff UP….but hot reds next to cool pinks in yellow pots???…and every time I sat in the garden, I got skritchy.   But by the time I realized what was harshing my joy, it was too late – the butterflies and bees were all over it.

But I vowed to change all that, come Spring 2019.  I’m going Kondommando on the garden (okay, prolly Kmmando Lite because I will see some 88cent salvia and save it and the hummers will love it) – but instead of all those little pots, I will do several HUGE pots of stuff.  Or, if I can, I will try to replicate the controlled fabulousness of Mette Krull (I’ve already got my Claus Dalby tulip pots planted).  Yeah,okay.  Stop laughing!  I said ‘try’.  The hummers and bees couldn’t care less if it’s in one big pot or 20 teenys – as long as it’s there.  Ditto the marigolds and nasturtiums, etc.   And I’m going to do more color blocks, which means I will have to be ruthless as seedlings start to flower.  Last year I let the Cleome guilt me into letting it stay – and they grew to 6′ and took over 3 beds!  Every time I would get ready to rip out a bunch of it I couldn’t because there would be 20 bees and other pollinators all over the damb stuff – but guess what?  I’m doing WHITE Cleome this year – so if you’re the pink , you’d better hit the road, Jack.  I’ll be waiting for you, clippers in hand.

lol, my pots do NOT look like Mette’s

OMG! my pots REALLY don’t look like Claus Dalby’s – but a gal can try!

And nobody needs 1000 Cleome anyway.

And don’t even TALK to me about Mammoth Dill.  Every year I’m terrified the dill won’t reseed.  And every year it says ‘hold my beer’.  and then I have to yank out SO MUCH DILL’!

It has taken me awhile to get to this point but I now realize that there’s no reason why I can’t approach the garden much as I approach my sock drawer and my perfume cabinet – if it’s not only not sparking joy but it’s sparking hives every time I see it, why shouldn’t I pull it together?  Perhaps it can go elsewhere in the garden – or perhaps it can go on the compost pile.  It’s OKAY to throw out old socks (or use them as dusters) and it really is okay to remove a plant that isn’t right for the space!   I finally  dug out a Blanc Double de Coubert rose that had died back to the rootstockwhich was that common muddy red that is the bane of every this gardener – yet I let it stay, throwing out an anemic red bloom here and there...right in the middle of my yellow & white border.  For two years!  Maybe I was hoping the graft would come back? (lol!  I blame drugs.  Or bacon).

As with a lot of things ::cough:: perfume cabinet ::cough::  the sheer size of my garden is partially to blame.  I’ve designed and planted over 20 gardens  but this is the largest space I’ve ever worked with and …well, there was no plan and limited simoleans to make it happen as a plan, so much of it is a result of happenstance (longtime readers may remember the 6 (instead of 3) tons of mushroom compost that begat the Hill Border! lol!  and the smoke bush BRANCH I stuck in there to block my neighbor’s roofline that shot up into a 20′ tall behemoth (6 tons of mushroom compost will do that) – but I’ve now gotten over my size-shock and am realizing that,  like anything else in my ‘care’ (perfume collection, I’m lookin’ at you!) , I have a responsibility to not let it lose its mind.  It has a job to do – and it’s my job to help it do its job.  It’s here to provide respite, beauty and calm.  Orangey-red with cool pink and 300 little pots ain’t the way.

what a glorious mess! and that white table is ugly.  Hello, Rustoleum! Hello, pots!!

Kay and I pruned the smoke bush last Autumn – it’s now a Smoke Tree – and it’s gorgeous.  Way lovelier than that tangled mess of branches – and I think it appreciates the brutal attention, much like Cher getting her eyebrows done in ‘Moonlight’.  Hurt for a mo’ but omg!  Such a lovely result. I did the backbreaking work of cutting out and laying new paths back in October and moved (AND KEPT VISUAL RECORDS!) some plants that were just in the wrong place (like in the middle of a path!).  Now?  I’m hoping Spring will allow me to look at the garden with a critical eye and come up with a more pleasing design.


I’m excited to see what I come up with (I only have about 30 variations in my sketchbook so far and we have 6 weeks to go! lol!). Wish me luck!  And watch this space!


How do you approach your ‘garden’ (whatever that is:  your sock drawer? books? perfume cabinet? spices?)  Is it hard for you to organize/cull?  How do you feel once you’ve done it?  I just culled my shopping bags of beauty/perfume samples – gave all the unloveds (or just ‘omg I’ll never get around to trying this’) to a friend whose church has a food pantry – they are always happy to have unused beauty samples and omg!  I’d love to see the look on the woman’s face who gets Etat’s ‘I am Trash’ – okay, I’m kidding on that one.  I’ve saved that for one of you Lovely Perfume Lunatics, so tell me a story and I’ll send the randomDOT winner that one and a couple of other beautiful crazies ( maybe Music for Awhile, which is gorgeous!).

  • March says:

    Also when I read you were going Kommando in your garden I giggled.

  • March says:

    I love aLL of this. And so relatable. The sad rootstock rose, lol. That is so me. And the cleome made me laugh because they’re so fricking aggressive and spiky! Gorgeous though Yeah, do all the pots, I bet you will be thrilled if they’re one color!

    • Musette says:

      that’s one of those d’oh! moments where you wonder if ………well…… am I really ‘all there’? Every garden I love has monochrome support systems, usually in some shade of terracotta or grey or green – or black. Nothing strident. I’ve been doing this too long not to have realized it. Oh, well. No goober like an old goober!


  • VerbenaLuvvr says:

    Really looking forward to seeing your garden in bloom! It is difficult to grow too many beautiful things in zone 3 where I live. I do have lilies, iris, peonies, delphiniums, liatris, coneflowers, and flowering plum and cherry trees. Everything else seems to freeze out, despite what the greenhouse assures me. Over the past 10 years though, due to health problems, I haven’t given the flowerbeds the attention they deserve, and now they are out of control and overgrown with introduced grasses, bindweed, and milkweed. Yes, butterfly food I know, but I’m leaving that responsibility to my neighbors who do no yardwork whatsoever. I plan to get my tiller out this spring and give everything the once over. Time to restore order!

    • Musette says:

      I bow to you, gardening in Zone 3! The very idea terrifies me! I’ve pulled WAY back on plants that are marginal – it’s why I no longer attempt my beloved David Austin roses – oh, so gorgeous – but one good polar vortex and it’s Sayonara, Mrs Kackleman for them.

      Hey, speaking of hardy roses, have you checked out Dr Griffith Buck’s? https://www.heirloomroses.com/roses/griffith-buck-roses.html

      and also the Explorer Series – I grow ‘William Baffin’ in the meanest area of my garden (the elL in my L-shaped garden, it is the windtunnel from hell!) – it has withstood 3 -30F polar vortexes and 2 near-tornadoes and comes back swinging, every Spring. Not a lot of scent but a squickton of blooms! https://www.midwestgardentips.com/rose-index-1/canadian-explorer-roses


  • hczerwiec says:

    I love your gardening stories! I move plants around a lot, but haven’t been very good at culling. I have the worst time culling books — I got rid of a LOT when we moved, and I’m very proud of that, because as a former lit professor, I had a ton of books, but back then I also had an extra office full of bookshelves to keep them on. But even now, I have to periodically cull books just to have space on my remaining shelves. Getting rid of books written by men accused of sexual assault cleared out a lot, though!

  • Eldarwen22 says:

    I just culled my socks. Threw out the ones that were full of holes or stretched out. Did the same thing with underwear and bras. Earlier this year, I threw out a bunch of clothes that were too worn out to be donated. I haven’t gotten around to my perfumes and makeup but slowly working on shredding papers that I don’t need. I have the tendency to be a pack rat.

  • Dina C. says:

    My back garden could use an infusion of new plants in a more organized fashion. I’ve mostly planted bulbs that chipmunks and squirrels won’t eat up: daffodils and hyacinths. I’ve recently done a lot of decluttering using some Marie Kondo and some Peter Walsh techniques. I like to pick and choose what works for me. My sock drawer is folded her way, but not my other clothes.

    • Musette says:

      I fold my panties the way Victoria’s Secret do theirs – and it works for my drawers (LOL!) I think the key is to do as you’re doing – pick what works for YOU! and run with it!


  • Michelle J Little says:

    For me it’s books and lipsticks, especially red lipsticks. I’m finally paring down to about 2 representatives for each shade of red, and it helps that my two daughters love getting the ones I don’t keep. Books are another matter entirely. I’m trying, very gradually, to donate books I don’t think I’ll ever read again, that are not classics, or that I didn’t have an amazing experience with.
    I don’t iron but de-pilling sweaters with my new sweater shaver from Target is very soothing and satisfying and I get a thrill out of making an older sweater look new again.

    • Musette says:

      you are QUING! the idea of de-pilling sweaters cheers me to my soul! And congrats for winnowing the lipsticks! I found 6 that made me look like a corpse. Wth was I thinking, keeping them? xoxoxo

  • Portia says:

    Hey Musette,
    Not really on topic but skirting the edges of your conversation.
    I’m not the ironing type. Nothing in my wardrobe gets a go. Nope, not unless I have to go fancy, which is next to never.
    When I get in the ironing mood. Yep, it happens. I never reach for clothes, it’s the Tea Towels that get done. Why? Well, they are simple, it doesn’t matter and the joy of opening a folded and ironed Tea Towel is really big.
    Also, ironing Tea Towels is a great way for me to let my mind wander and find answers, ways to do things or approach people problems. It helps me percolate a costume design or blog post, gives me the room in my head to just think but all done unconsciously because I’m firmly focussed on ironing Tea Towels. Then when I do sit down to do whatever it is that needs doing I am ready with a plan of action and things tend to then go pretty smoothly and much faster than if I’d just waded in with fists swinging.
    Portia xx

    • Musette says:

      Actually, darling, it’s PERSACKLY on-target! For me, ironing (dusting, vacuuming) are the kind of mindless tasks that allow me to do the same as you – work out problems (or future tasks). There’s something so homely about those tasks. Let’s face it – if you’re able (and willing) to run a vacuum or iron, it’s unlikely we’re in the midst of a plague, right?


  • Brigitte says:

    My “garden” consists of two aloe vera plants that sit on my kitchen window (these are the only plants that have miraculously survived my non green thumb over the years).

    A few years ago I culled my clothes (which included socks , underwear and shoes) and it was indeed liberating. Now if only I can get my girls to do the same 🙂

    • Musette says:

      I don’t think it’s possible to kill an aloe! lol! Don’t try, okay? 😉

      Culling clothes/shoes is very satisfying. I should do more of it! xoxoxo

  • Barbara B says:

    Ironing sheets! My mother used to do that (and probably still does at the age of 83). She also ironed my father’s boxers and handkerchiefs which is how I learned how to iron. I iron only what I absolutely have to!

    • Musette says:

      LOL! That reminds me of the kerfluffle when Ann Landers suggested that homemakers who did not iron towels were….slatternly? Of course, she hadn’t ever ironed anything in her life, being Ann Landers and all….. I do iron hankies! No underwear, though. 😉 xoxoxo

  • Koyel says:

    Musette, I love your stories, and I love your garden. I have a hard time throwing away plants that I don’t think look good anymore (they’re alive! they’re thriving! so what if they’re not pretty? who am I to decide when to end their lives?). I have a hard time throwing anything out, so I’m trying to remedy that by using things more (e.g., my spices). But I am trying to get rid of anything that actively causes me unhappiness 🙂

    • Musette says:

      That you love my stories means more than you know! Thank you! I am with you on throw out/use – either one is fine for me (I’ve been using the little dregs in face/body treatment for awhile – it’s great to get those bottles OUT OF THERE! xoxoxo

      and yeah…I need to set up a Donkey Island for unloved plants.