Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The perfect garden

Since the transformation of our garden to a mandala system back in March the garden has yielded very little. The focus has been on getting all the infrastructure in place. We now have the beds, paths, chickens & tractor, grass barriers, pond and recently seedling table. So we are pretty close to complete, or as close to it as a garden ever gets. None of these things seem fully complete though and there always seems to be something cropping up, like a replacement roosting perch for the chooks. I am however learning to accept that a garden is never complete and  thus these are not disappointments or set backs at all. Rather opportunities to learn and grow as a gardener.

A friend was once telling me about his Japanese garden and some of the zen concepts behind it. Apparently the aim is to complete the garden by making it perfect, while at the same time knowing full well that perfection doesn’t exist. He said he would often move a single stone one inch to the left then back a bit the very next day. The zen of striving to obtain what is unattainable enables one to obtain it right now. His mere attempt at the perfect garden has created the perfect garden all along. If that makes any sense? As a result his Japanese garden brings him peace and relaxation.

Typically allot of my undertakings are more project like with a distinct start and a clear end. This appeals to my creative side that often gets bored and wants to move on to the next great idea. Gardening I have found has lots of opportunities for me to express this creativity but also comprises of allot of constant repetitive duties, and definitely has no end.  I do think it is important to focus at getting things organised prior to starting but with spring only inches away I think the time has come for me to shift that focus and get sowing.

I have been reading some of the tales from the Arabian Nights to the children. The book I am reading them from has these interesting little factual notations after each story. Last night, and half way through writing this post, I read them 'The garden of enchantments' and would you believe one of the notes was this:

"In the Islamic faith, striving to achieve a perfect garden symbolized trying to achieve perfection of the soul. Farizad’s garden, though beautiful, is incomplete and this reflects her life." Very appropriate I thought.

So is your garden complete or perfect? Now answer wisely.


  1. I have had a kitchen garden for 30 years, and it is as far from complete as it ever was! A garden is a living thing, evolving, and that process is never ending.

  2. Hmm... rather than the garden, I think that this question might be more appropriate to apply to our house... I am living in my absolute dream home (an old queenslander), for years and years I wanted a house such as the one I have, without really believing that I would ever be so lucky as to have one... and now that I do, I forget that sometimes. My house is such a reflection of my inner-self - when I am calm my house is tidy and seems to "flow", when I am disorganised and a little stressed my house seems messy and the renovations that "need" to be done start to frustrate me.

    Is my house perfect?... the older I get the less I strive for perfection in any area... being a perfectionist meant that I never did anything, because it wouldn't be done "right". So no... not perfect... and so... perfect?

  3. Linda I guess if you have never been able to complete your garden in 30 years with your skills I will just have to resign myself to never completing mine.

    Ali "So no... not perfect... and so... perfect" Excellent answer! And I so relate with the house and I bet my partner Melanie does as well. I wonder if your point about a reflection of our inner-self is due to us looking for imperfection around us when we ourselves feel imperfect. I just had a thought... I wonder if this has anything to do with the drive behind consumerism?

  4. The saying goes that a good gardener is never satisfied. So I figure I'm a good gardener!

  5. Bev thanks for sharing that, now I know I am one too.

  6. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. Our garden, with its weeds, bugs and wilt viruses is perfect to me! :)

  7. Celia unfortunately I think for many beholders perfection is not in their eye. I have heard it said that many artists consider their work imperfect yet to the observer they are nothing short of brilliant. I am very pleased to know you are not one of them and that you accept your garden for what it really is... perfect!


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