Revealing the wizard

I was pulling a cart through the shrub and perennial section of Country Arbors earlier this fall, looking for more plants to complete the design of the new front garden I’d been installing since August. I’d long since given up on the grand design plan I’d put together, resigned to the fact that you can’t always get what you want, when you want it.

But what I found myself thinking as my eyes scanned the aisles was, “What are people going to think about this plant?” My thoughts and decisions were being controlled by the fact that my garden will be one of seven on next summer’s county garden walk. I was choosing plants based on what I thought the hundreds of visitors would think of them in my garden, ignoring my own personal preferences in the process.

I stopped suddenly, standing amid puddles left over from an earlier rainstorm, cold because I’d failed to wear an adequate jacket on a blustery day. I looked at the plants I’d already put in the cart and asked myself, “Would I be putting these in my garden if no other soul ever stepped foot in its soil?”

Many of the plants in the cart survived the cut, but some made their way back to greenhouse benches, replaced with specimens that were more to my personal liking. I walked around the nursery for good hour more, finding inspiration in every corner. I shopped like I’ve always shopped. Find the plant first, find the place later. Does this lead to a more haphazard garden? Certainly. But it leads to a garden that is authentically mine, a garden that follows my heart instead of the rules.

But there is a fear that remains. In the more than 12 years that I’ve been gardening here, only a handful of people have ever seen its entirety — mostly close friends, and certainly not hundreds who’ve paid for the privilege to walk its paths and breathe its air. Most who have seen my garden have seen it through the carefully focused frame of my camera, a choreographed version of reality.

It’s a bit like Oz, and I’m the wizard behind the curtain.

Opening my garden is akin to opening my soul. It is the most tangible outward expression of me that exists, in all its eclectic glory. Most of us — myself included — occasionally peek outside the curtain or even more rarely let others behind it where our vulnerability lives. We prefer to let others see what we want them to see, a filtered portrait of our true selves.

There’s something I’ve learned (or perhaps finally admitted) about myself. I am emotionally wired to affirmation, and I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time and energy positioning myself as a result. But it always felt hollow, because I’ve focused on trying to be someone that others expected me to be. I now understand that the only affirmation that truly feeds me is that which affirms the authentic me, weeds and all.

When I stand among the visitors next June, I’m sure it will feel as if I am emotionally naked for all to see me through my garden. I am sure the exhilaration will be equally matched by terror; the smiles will be air under my feet, and criticisms will sting.

But despite the uncertainty, I am ready to step from behind the curtain and be a wizard, revealed.


Published by Christopher Tidrick

Be real. Love always. Share beauty. Lead well. Learn more.


  1. As someone who has had groups and individuals tour her own gardens, I know exactly what you're talking about. I've never ever thought of my gardens as any great design showcase and you, having been in them, know that to be true. But you also know that you and I shop for plants in exactly the same way, so you know and understand that my garden is an expression of me, inadequacies and all.

    It used to bother me a bit, that my gardens are not magazine worthy. After all, I write about plants and the expectations of my gardens are more than what the gardens really are. But I garden for my enjoyment. I'm the one who spends every day there and they please me.

    When I visit others' gardens, I'm not judging their sense of design. I see them as an expression of what pleases the owner/gardener. I've liked some better than others but there aren't too many gardens I've visited that didn't have something to offer as a take-away.

    It's a brave thing to let others see such a personal expression of yourself. If others don't care for your style, hopefully they can see the passion with which you do things and be happy that you wanted to share it.



  2. So many people feel the same way as you. The first time I opened my garden gate to a visiting garden club, I thought I would have a heart attack. I saw every weed and every flaw, they saw beauty. When you put as much time into the garden as you do, it become a part of you and is indeed an expression of who your are. Someone told me before that first garden opening to “sweep the walks and give everyone a glass of wine. They will think your garden is wonderful”… I did and they did! Thanks for sharing this.



  3. Your story and your fears sure struck a chord with me and most of the gardeners I know. It reminds me of all the times I run out to sweep the stepping stones before guest arrive. I am more like to “sweep” my garden than my house! 🙂 We do take our gardening seriously … when you love something, you just do! I have enjoyed watching your garden grow and change and trust me when I say, your visitors are going to fall in love with your garden!



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