August 31, 2015

Garden Lessons and Life Parallels

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Our youngest has officially moved out and on to her first post-college apartment. We're true empty-nesters now! Over the weekend, the kids and I watched old family videos of their early years. And the swift passage of time, once again, became brutally apparent.

As I reflect on "garden lessons learned" during the past season, my mind naturally strays toward parallels--lessons learned in parenting that can be applied to gardening, and vice versa. (For those new to this "lessons learned" meme, we invite gardeners to share things they've learned during the past season. This meme runs from the meteorological end of each season to the next equinox or solstice.)

So, I thought I'd try a little exercise. Whether you're a parent, a mentor, a teacher, a friend, or a neighbor, you've likely played an important role in the life of a child. What parallels do you find between their growth and development and the growth and development of your garden? Try substituting "child" or "young one" for the word "garden" in the following passages:

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Savor your garden's magic--those rare moments when a scene or a sensory experience or an event captures your attention and makes you pause in wonder. Sometimes "savor" will mean taking a photo of your garden for remembrance or to share with others. Other times, it will mean simply sitting back, observing your garden, and reflecting on your blessings. These magical moments pass too quickly.

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Your garden will never be perfect. How does one define "perfect," anyway? Some gardens are wild, some are tidy, and many more are between the extremes. Do the best with what you have and the natural attributes of your garden. Nurture your garden to support life in its many forms.

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Ask your garden: "How would you like to change or improve, and how can I help you get there?" It's likely your garden will speak to you--responding with a vision for its improvement.

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Sometimes messy, difficult, and painful things will happen to your garden. Other times, your garden will let you down. Don't give up. These challenges are usually transitions to a better, stronger, or different stage of development.

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Try new things with your garden. Change builds character and strength. Plus, it's fun! Sometimes you'll wonder why it took you so long to explore these new adventures!

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Don't take it personally. When your garden seems unruly and difficult, remind yourself that it's probably simply a stage. And if you put a little extra effort into it--or sometimes if you simply step away for a while--things will improve with time. Or, maybe time will help you accept the inevitable circumstances.

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Be present. One day your garden will be young; the next, it will be mature. Observe what's happening with your garden now. Yes, reminisce a bit about how your garden looked in the past, and be hopeful for its future. But remember to be proud and grateful for where your garden is right now.

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Focus on what is beautiful and fabulous; not on what is ugly about your garden. There is ugliness in every garden, but there are also many unique and incredible attributes worthy of recognition and praise.

These parallels are lifelong reflections, but top of mind for me lately. How about you? What garden inspirations and lessons have you learned or discovered during the past season?

To join in the "Garden Lessons Learned" meme, simply write a post or share one you've already written about lessons you've learned during the past season. Then share your links or observations in the comments. I'll keep this post up for a few days, and it will be available always under the "Lessons Learned" tab at the top of this blog. I'll share "lessons learned" posts on the PlantPostings Facebook Page closer to the equinox.

Please also join in Donna's Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View! Feel free to join in with a post that fits both memes, or separate posts for one or both of them.

Garden blessings to you!

70 comments:

  1. Interesting Beth. I never look at the garden in negative terms though. Nature always has its path and direction, so what happens will be and all that means is I'm OK with that. I am also not so focused on the garden as a means of my enjoyment so again, what happens, happens, it can't disappoint. I plant my garden for the wildlife, gardens I design are often for aesthetics. So pretty has to be part of the plan as does tidy, orderly and easy to care for. Also planning for maturity. Can't have a garden get out of control if people pay for certain results.

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    1. Your perspective seems to be the extremes of mine, Donna. That is interesting. I only design small gardens for other people as a hobby on a volunteer basis, and they're designed for native plants/pollinators. So the pressure isn't as great as a paying client. In my own garden, I prefer a combination of wildlife support, enjoyment, and visual appeal, which can be a bit challenging. That's why my garden is wilder at the outer limits of the property and tidier closer to the house. Regarding the negative terms ("ugly" "difficult" "painful" etc.), the other day I found a dead chipmunk in my vegetable garden. His skull and cheek were eaten out by yellow jackets. I guess one could look at that scene as a positive happening in the grand scheme of nature, but at that moment it seemed ugly, difficult, and painful to me. It seemed like a good point to make without describing the scene in detail. That's what I meant though--the garden, like life and growing children, isn't always sunshine and roses.

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  2. My garden has changed a lot since my children went out on their own. It has become my baby so to speak. I guess I really shouldn't call it my baby because there are times I ignore it when it needs attention. It already gets a lot of attention. Much more than when my children were at home and I was working full time that is for sure. I feel very close to my garden.

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    1. I understand, Lisa. That's happening to me, too. Gardening is an amazing hobby, and there are so many layers to it, and opportunities to explore, observe, and support nature. When my kids were young and I was working full-time, there were so many things in my garden that I simply didn't have time to notice, let alone time to redesign or readjust.

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  3. Interesting lesson. And That's so beautiful flower! I know Echinacea for the first time for its benefit for our health

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    1. Thanks, Endah. Yes, Echinacea is a reliable standard plant here in much of the U.S. It's native, it's beautiful, and it attracts and supports pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. Harvested and processed, it supports human health, as you mention.

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    1. Thank you, Francesco. I appreciate your visit. I'll check out your blog, too!

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  5. Thoughtful and right for the season, I think of end of August as the star of the "year" better thank January. Now I could do anything for a garden (my allotment did not work after all) so I can't add any thoughts on parallels, but I agree with most of our comments except for the children part (NoMo). I believe in life as a river and that gives me the strength to welcome the next day. Hope this makes sense, I am in a very philosophical mood these days!

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    1. Viewing life as a river is a good approach, Lula. That helps us to appreciate the eddys and tributaries and waterfalls, etc. I've been feeling philosophical lately, too, which is common for me at the end of the summer. What can I say? The growing season is coming to a close for me. I need to start closing the door on the garden psychically and planning for the next growing season. Wistfulness, gratitude, and hope occupy my mind at the same time currently.

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  6. And beautiful garden has its moments (spring, summer), but they are sad (late fall and winter). thallium and it happens in life. Regards.

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    1. Yes, the transition from the easy seasons to the brutal ones can be tough in a temperate climate. Many more days of easy weather ahead, but the days are shorter and winter isn't far away. :(

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  7. Wonderful words of wisdom, Beth! There are so many parallels between parenting as you point out, and not just nurturing it from its infancy. I think enjoying the moment is so important as is accepting imperfections. I always have this vision when I start a new flowerbed, just as new parents have hopes and dreams of what their child will become. But the reality over time is much different, and we must accept our gardens/children for what they are, not what we imagined they would be. Enjoy your time as an empty-nester! It's strange at first, but can be enjoyable. Of course, I should warn you--from my experience, children often move back home again:)

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    1. Thank you, Rose. And thanks for the support. We've been fortunate in that our kids didn't go to school far away, and now they're both living very near our community. So, the transition has been much easier than it is for others. Still, the finality of the kids living elsewhere has kind of hit me lately. Yes, re: the garden hopes and dreams. I agree: We can plan all we want, but reality is often much different, which means adjustment and re-work. But that also means more new plants! ;-)

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  8. Oh, Beth, this post is so timely - my boys are juniors this year! Wise words! Thank you!
    Link to my post with my garden lesson learned and end of month view: http://tanyasgarden.blogspot.com/2015/09/end-of-month-view-august-2015.html

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    1. Hi Tatyana: I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Juniors in high school? That is a tough year as they prepare for college. Juniors in college? Yes, the empty nest is near! Thanks for joining in the meme! :)

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    2. Ah, an exciting time! It goes fast. Enjoy!

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  9. What a great way to think about the garden. And I love how all the pix are variations on one type of plant.

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    1. Thanks, Linda. I'd thought about doing a practical list of little tips and hints I'd learned, which I do from time to time for this meme. But some bigger issues have been top of mind lately, so this seemed like a more appropriate approach. The Echinacea photos were taken on a late afternoon near the beginning of summer. The light was interesting at the time, so I have quite a few shots from that collection.

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  10. If you've ever come across a scene in your garden that is exquisite and by the time you return with your camera the light has changed and the magic has fled...well, then you have learned the lesson of living in the moment.

    Your post reminds me of those pictures where the negative and positive areas shift back and forth to form different images as I read, substituting child for garden, back and forth. Very insightful, Beth.

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    1. Thank you, Ricki. Yes, your scenario has happened to me many times--both in the garden and when photographing my kids. That's when the "point and shoot" camera comes in handy. ;-) Sometimes I wish I could capture scenes exactly as they happen in front of my eyes, just by blinking. Wouldn't that be great?

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    2. Better tell Apple...they're always working on the next big thing.

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  11. not a parent but you give me lots to think about. I'll come back to savour this, tomorrow.

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    1. I think this applies to any loved one, actually. It's just that my kids and their adulthood were on my mind recently. :)

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  12. great thought provoking post, Beth. I guess there are parallels between children and gardens - both are about growth and development. And just as unexpected things happen in gardens so such things happen with kids. I think leaving home may not be such a permanent thing. In my case my adult kids have left home lots of times - in between stays we are empty nesters.

    Here's the link to my post relating to Lessons Learned: http://slowgardener.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/end-of-winter-beginning-of-spring.html

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    1. It's always fascinating for us to be facing the cooler seasons while you're starting the warmer seasons, even though our climates are much different anyway. I'm finding what you're saying about returning children to be true, Sue. Thanks for joining in the memes!

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  13. I love that you've taken the so-called "ordinary" echinacea and made it extraordinary. and isn't that what we do with ordinary moments of each day by our presence. Beautiful sensitive post--thank you for it. I have been gentle with my garden with year as the heat has hurt it. So I water and tell it I hope next year will be softer and gentler as is our usual Portland weather....

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    1. Thank you, Susie. This has been a wonderful gardening year for us in the northern Midwest. I suppose that makes the parting even more poignant than it would be during a difficult year. Good thoughts about the "ordinary" actually being "extraordinary"! That's true of so much of life, isn't it? :)

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  14. The thing to remember with kids as well as gardens is that they are not static. The weedy seedling that gets in the way can become a mighty oak just like the pain in the butt kid can become someone wonderful. :o)

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    1. Well said, Tammy, well said! I should have thought of that one. Thanks for adding your wisdom to the topic! So true!

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  15. Beautiful and so heartbreakingly true. We are offered so many opportunities to be nurturing and it can be so difficult to do well sometimes but sooo worth it. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. Thank you. Sometimes I think we forget what a risk it is to be nurturing. But then, it's even more of a risk to be given the opportunity to be nurturing and to avoid it and run in the other direction. All the risks I've taken with nurturing have been incredibly painful, but at the same time, the most rewarding experiences of life. Thanks for phrasing it that way. Lovely thoughts!

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  16. The garden, and nature in general, is our best teacher and you know that so well. I realize that my contribution to the cycles of life in nature is slightly different, but I'll add it here in case you find it appropriate: http://www.life-change-compost.com/the-fabulous-fly-and-her-farm-family/ I'll go back and add your meme URL into my post as well. The lesson for me all this year, and last is simply that of life and death and the cycle of life. That we cannot escape it, but will go deeper into life by a full acceptance of it. As my friend, Elissa, on her farm says when she quotes Henry Beston (in the 3 minute video on the post) "Animals are not brethren, they are not underlings. They are creatures like ourselves, caught in this web of life and time." For me, the sometimes hard lessons of life and death on the farm and in the garden are the same. Our job is to keep loving.

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    1. "Creatures like ourselves...caught in this web of life and time." Lovely. The great naturalists have said similar things. It's a very healthy outlook to have. Then you see your part in the grand scheme of things--how insignificant, yet critically important, is each living creature. Thanks for your thoughts and for joining in the meme, Susie!

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  17. Beth this is so beautifully written, and deeply thought out, your words and images are revealed with such gentle intent, and clarity. A gorgeous post!

    Jen

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    1. Thank you, Jen! The parallels are playing out in front of my eyes, and are deeply obvious and relevant with the change of seasons. Blessings to you and your garden. :)

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  18. Some interesting insights, and beautiful photos to accompany it.

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    1. Thank you, Heather. These topics have been on my mind quite a bit lately, so it seemed appropriate for "lessons learned."

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  19. This post rings so true with me Beth, thanks for putting it so eloquently into words. Being a parent has been the most important thing I have ever done in my life, and although my 29 year old son moved out to live on his own exactly 10 years ago this month, I don’t think I will ever stop being a parent (does anyone ever stop being a mum??) However, the last 15 years, gardening has become a very important part of my life, and for obvious reasons perhaps more important than it would have been had I not been practically housebound.
    I do treat my garden as my child – that is such a good description! I leave it to get on with things it can do on its own, trusting it to be mature at times, but still having a sharp eye on things in case something happens. For all the things the garden needs help with, I am there to do what’s needed, and as I did with my son from birth and onwards, I have also captured my garden in pictures and film – as the proud parent I am :-)

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    1. I'm glad it resonated with you, too, Helene. Thanks for your kind words. I agree--I'll always be mom to my kids, even when they'd rather I stay far away. ;-) Actually, they're both level-headed and fun now. We've had our challenges along the way, but it's great fun to be the parent of young adults. I'm still working on the garden, thinking about the next one, planning, planning ... nurturing, nurturing ...

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  20. What a great exercise. I think if we all looked at the world in this way, we'd all be in a better place.

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    1. Thanks, Tim. Yes, I think many of these points could be applied to most aspects of life and relationships. The garden teaches us many lessons, doesn't it?

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  21. I do not have children, but I have 5 nieces and loads of students who passed through my classroom...and I savor every one. This post was outstanding Beth. So much to think about and remember for life and our gardens....you know I believe my garden parallels my life and I often find lessons there. I also garden for critters and my lesson is related to wildlife and parenting a bit...hope you enjoy it:

    http://www.livingfromhappiness.com/wildlife-lesson-whos-your-momma

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    1. Yes, this definitely applies to mentoring, teaching, and caring for young folks, too. Thanks for your kind comments, Donna. Your post is fabulous. I learned many things about cowbirds. Thanks for joining in the meme, Donna. :)

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  22. As I have young children, this post rings so true! Sometimes we are so busy rushing around doing stuff with the 'garden' that we forget to simply enjoy the 'garden'. And of course, stopping and listening to our 'garden' is so important too. I've learned a lot in the garden this past season, and hope to share it soon!

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    1. Hi Indie: I'm glad the theme resonated with you, too. Being a parent (or a gardener) is a privilege, but also a responsibility and a challenge. I totally agree with your points here. Thanks for sharing your lessons. :)

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  23. This is wonderful. My children are grown, and my garden is mature; your words ring true for both! I have always thought the garden is a reflection of life itself and full of valuable lessons.

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    1. Deb: I'm at the same stage with my kids and my garden. I try to add new plants and features every year to keep things fresh, but the "bones" of the garden are definitely mature. One of the joys of gardening is that the lessons last a lifetime!

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  24. I love this posting, Beth. For most of my (many) years I viewed myself as a teacher: as mother, at my work in education, and now as a grandmother and master gardener. But these days more than ever I am a student, learning so much from my garden. Somehow the garden lessons enable me to 'put it all together' and see the big picture of my life. Again, this is a wonderful posting! P. x

    http://pamsenglishcottagegarden.blogspot.com/2015/09/lessons-learned-at-west-end-fair.html

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    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Pam, and for joining in the meme. I agree: The garden lessons help us to see the big picture in so many ways. They help us to understand other parts of our lives that sometimes confound us. Great post on your blog!

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  25. Wow, Beth! That was creative and awesome! I am glad I made it here to read it. At first, I was thinking of our granddaughter, who we have 4 days a week, but we also have the boys once a week, and I started including them in things you said. I did think of the garden as well. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Sue! I don't have grandchildren yet, but I'm thinking it must be a wonderful blessing to experience that stage of life. And your grandkids help you in your garden! What could be better than that?!

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  26. Hi Beth, I liked reading your reflections about gardening and parenting! And you are right, there are more parallels than I expected to find. Loved the photos of the echinaceas. I saw a completely green one in a German garden that I just visited and blogged about. Need to find that one here in the US :-)!
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Hi Christina: I'm glad you enjoyed the thoughts. The light was good on the Echinaceas one early evening at the beginning of summer, so I snapped quite a few photos. The green one in this post simply hadn't turned yet, but those truly green cultivars are interesting.

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  27. Very wise words for child rearing and gardening both. Relax and take joy in the experience is how I would summarize it. Here is my contribution to Lessons Learned: https://gardeninacity.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/farewell-to-summer/

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    1. Thanks, Jason. I guess it's easy to say in retrospect, but it is true. ;-) And the same applies in the garden. Thanks for joining in the meme. I enjoyed your post!

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  28. A slightly different parallel comes to my mind Beth right at this very moment. A full day with my 11 week old grandson and a whole day gardening both can be equally exhausting but at the end of the day you know it will all be worth it!
    Great post.

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    1. Yes, so many great parallels are evolving from this theme! That's so true about both gardening and parenting and grandparenting. Kids (and gardens) can be so exhausting and so incredibly wonderful at the same time. Thanks!

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  29. I LOVE this Beth! It's so very true in every aspect. I don't have a garden any more (deep sigh :( but I spend a lot of time at the local family farm, Wiley Farms, where I buy all my produce and get my gardening fix. Having raised two sons, I get every parallel you were drawing in your post. Beautiful! And thank you!

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    1. Thanks, Diane. You still have trees and shrubs and perennials, right? I consider that gardening--not edible garden, but still rewarding work. That's great that you have access to a local source of produce! We have a CSA share during the growing season, so we enjoy locally grown, organic, fresh veggies and fruit from May through early November. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. You're welcome, and thank you!

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  30. Fantastic post Beth and damn can I relate with my 9 and 13 y/o.Thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday, Here is my "Lessons Learned" post. http://www.obsessiveneuroticgardener.com/2015/09/5-lessons-learned-in-the-garden-this-year.html

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    1. Thanks, John. Your kids are at great ages, but you're right--from this point, it goes really fast, with all their activities and school, etc. Thanks for joining in the meme. Your post is fabulous!

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  31. Uwielbiam Jeżówki to piękne rośliny :-) Wspaniałe zdjęcia ;-)

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    1. Thanks for your kind comments. I love Echinacea, too. It's such a reliable, beneficial plant. Thanks for stopping by!

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  32. Joining in! The garden teaches me so very much every season, but I narrowed it down to a few I could write about. Thanks for hosting! http://www.redhousegarden.com/2015/09/lessons-learned-in-vegetable-garden.html

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    1. Thanks for joining in, Indie! I loved this post--so many practical lessons about edible and ornamental gardening, and your photos are superb!

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  33. gathered up a basket of lessons
    http://eefalsebay.blogspot.co.za/2015/09/our-false-bay-garden-in-september.html

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    1. Great lessons, Diana! I need to start a list like the one you've developed. Your garden just gets more impressive every day. Happy spring to you!

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  34. I know I am very late--life got in the way--but I have finally wrapped up my lessons learned this season. All the mysteries I have encountered in the garden this summer at http://www.prairierosesgarden.blogspot.com

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