I have a selection of herb clippings littering my counter. They are in little pots, with lots of water, and I am hoping that some of them will start to root. Rosemary, lavender, sage. All three came off well loved plants in my garden. And I have already begun to worry over the drooping leaves on these little branches.

When I was very young, I lived across the street from a woman who could get anything to grow. She had a lavish garden, complete with a massive arbor that had become completely enclosed on three sides by several prolific wisterias. That outdoor room was a sanctuary in the heat of summer, always cool and a little damp when the sun was too intense everywhere else in the neighborhood. The woman who grew it was called Grandma Bobby, and she had this charming Georgian accent, and it sounds as if I’m fabricating this perfect southern plant-witch entirely but I promise you she’s real.

I’ve always measured myself against her when it comes to gardening, which means I’ve never been that good at gardening. However…


I never saw Grandma Bobby when she was 34, the age I am now. Or 24, when perhaps like me she managed to kill a few cactuses, or 12, when she was maybe spending a lot of time across the street and marveling at her neighbor’s perfect garden. Nor did I ever see her toss out the plants that didn’t make it. Propagation for woody-stem herbs only has a 50% success rate. The ones that shrivel up their leaves and never put down roots are tossed in the compost heap, and forgotten about. Because success does not happen because of an absence of failure.

And I want my plants to succeed. I whisper encouragements to them as I make my coffee, and I hum Penguin Café Orchestra because I think the sage likes it. But if they don’t survive, I’ll clip another bit of new growth and try again. There is nothing lost in the attempt. Nothing damning about a bunch of dead herbs.

I can’t be perfect, but I can keep trying, and eventually something will grow.

Erik and I bought two wisteria plants yesterday, and we have a small arbor for them to climb up and join together, and make a tiny room in our backyard just big enough for two chairs and a little side table.

Fingers crossed.