Monday, March 15, 2010

Luck in the garden

Blame it on the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day on the 17th, but I have all things “lucky” on the brain.  Maybe the lurid green color associated with this holiday roped me in, or maybe it’s the pot of gold/leprechaun thing, I can’t say.  There is, in fact, a cereal devoted to luck (and high fructose corn syrup), called “Lucky Charms” of which I was an ardent devotee in my youth.  I had to give it up…not enough rainbow-colored marshmallows for my taste.  Not even pants (or trousers, for you English folk) are luck-less in branding: "Lucky” brand jeans have “Lucky you” embroidered under the zipper.  Subtle, isn’t it?

shamrock 007

For the plant hunters among us, or at least those willing to go on hands and knees in the turf grass, finding a four-leafed clover is considered good luck.  Other talismans of luck: the horse-shoe, rabbits foot, and various items of adornment such as necklaces with charm or medallion.  And smelly socks, but perhaps that is lucky for sports players only.  Horoscopes are filled with such prognostications as lucky days, numbers, years, and signs of all kinds. (I’m a Leo, so this year I’m going to be busy.  In fact I might not be able to post once a week anymore, as I just recently learned, a minute ago in fact from the above link, that Saturn, Lord of the Underworld has sent me on a mission this year.  Hooray!  Time to dig out the blue tarp cape and duct tape goggles of my secret alter ego.)
Proverbs and famous quotes about luck abound.  “Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck.”  There’s Luck o’ the Irish.  Lucky in love.  Luck is the idol of the idle.  Or maybe you prefer Obi Wan Kenobi’s dour observation in Star Wars: “In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.”  (The Irish have quite a few sayings about it, a fact uncovered in my scandalously brief research on the topic.  Surely some Irish reader will share why….)  And don’t we all send people off on a new adventure, whether it be the start of a sports game, wedding day, or Spelling Bee with the injunction “Good luck” or “Best of luck”?  Just what does it mean for the gardener?

I myself have considered certain gardeners to be lucky: those with a large garden, a fertile garden, a high yielding, or artful garden.  And even, once, in a moment of rage, those with no garden.  (Don’t judge me too harshly, there was blood involved.)  Everyone gardening south of zone 5 is grade-A lucky.  More than 20 inches of precipitation annually: lucky.  If the seasons arrive in your garden when the calendar says they should (for example, March 20 being the first day of spring), you are lucky.  Ditto those living in England, where they are blessed with real garden programming, witty garden commentators galore, magazines, and scads of world-famous gardens to tour.  And there is always that gardener that seems to be able to grow anything, especially that one plant you’ve tried and tried and killed and killed.  It gives me comfort to call that luck.

Oddly, a recent scan of garden blogs revealed but one entry on luck.  Check out Whole Life Gardening (written by C.L.): “Gardening & the School of Dumb Luck”.  I found many blogs briefly mentioned luck (as in “good luck in growing/finding/getting rid of…”) but few had devoted a post to the subject.  But let’s examine the other side of the gold coin, shall we?

Gleaned from my meticulous research on luck proverbs, the antonym for “luck” is “work.”  My favorite definition of work, taken from bing, might be number 10: “means for energy transfer” but the others (have job, exert effort, function, be successful, work in a specific place, shape something, cultivate land, and attain particular condition) work for gardening as well.  To quote a man that seemed to spout proverbs: “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”  So says President Thomas Jefferson.  Is it any coincidence there are a dearth of garden blog posts on luck, when we take into account that gardeners are some of the hardest-working folk around?
Do you believe in luck?  Or hard work?  Or some amalgamation of both?


  1. Hello Christine, I do love the green of the Irish and would love to visit Eire one day. ;)

    First and foremost hard work is our ethic and yes there may be some luck... being in the 'right place at the right time' kind of thing, but IF the latter occurs, the overriding factor for success remains ones work ethic. Don't ya think?

  2. I believe in both luck and hard work. If I work hard, I feel that luck might come my way. I am a sucker for a shamrock. My husband can't pass a penny without picking it up, he's definitely Irish! :D

  3. From the movie, Empire Of The Sun, a father says to his son, "...funny, the harder I work the luckier we get."

    Not only lucky to garden, I'm honored. And that's funny. An activity causing: blood, bruising, sweat, exhaustion, expense, time & repeat, repeat, repeat. With joy.

    Sublime joy.

    And I get paid to do it for a living too? Incredibly lucky, yes?

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  4. I buy into the hard work line of thought, and hope a little luck will come my way. Sometimes the magic works; sometimes not.

  5. I believe there's a combination of hard work and luck. I know there are certain things that do well in my garden and I swear it's just luck, but other things I work hard at keeping looking good.
    I love the quote by Thomas Jefferson, I think it's pretty true.

  6. i say both! and my garden is definitely both!

  7. I would have to say both - and that's my philosophy in life. As gardener's though, we have to be extra resilient - we're really optimistic, determined kinds of people. We've also experienced multiple (sometimes over and over!!) failures but are just really determined to try and try again. We could ponder that next - are we gluttons for punishment or just really persistent? :)

  8. Your post reminds me of Malcolm Gladwells book Outliers. He says that while you need luck or opportunity you also have to work hard to achieve your goal.

  9. This was a perfectly delightful post. You're a talented writer and fun to read.

    As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction!


  10. I'm not sure about the luck, but I do believe in hard work. Except - I never really think of the work that I do in my gardens as 'work'; I view it as a therapy or joyful purpose in my life. I bet most gardens feel the same. Cheryl

  11. I think not being afraid of hard work makes you more likely to seize opportunities that others would say came your way due to luck. Either way, life is good!

  12. I just wanted to thank you for stopping by my blog on Bloom Day, I appreciate your comment. My home town had one industrial building which everyone called The Shirt Factory. They made two brands of shirts, Lucky Boy and Lucky Girl, and maybe they should have used the four-leaf clover for their logo instead of a horseshoe. In spite of all their hard work, luck ran out and the place fell victim to globalization.

  13. Hi Christine~~ Great post! It reminded me of the song on the old Hee Haw TV show, remember? "...If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all...gloom despair and agony on me."

    Sometimes I'll call it luck but often I'll refer to it as serendipity. But there is definitely merit in hard work.

  14. I'd add to your list of lucky people - anyone who started gardening free of terribly invasive weeds. I'd like to someday find myself lucky somehow, but while I'm waiting for that to happen, it's work work work, then I'll be ready for whatever luck comes my way. I am sure to appreciate the luck of living in zone 8 where we have a good variety of plants that grow happily here, an in the Pacific Northwest where countless fabulous nurseries have set up shop

  15. Oh I definitely believe in luck. Last year when digging in a new area which was the site of a barn back in the 1800s, I found a very old corroded horse shoe. I planted heirloom potatoes in that area where the shoe was found and we had no blight or potato bugs last year at all!

  16. How lovely to hear from you! Thank you for your comment on my blog.
    Happy St Paddy's Day xx

    As a Northern Irish person of course I believe in luck!!! What a crazy question, though, luckily for me I have 'the luck of the Irish' to keep me going AND 'the gift of the gab', hehe.

  17. Good morning, Christine. I'll have to agree, mostly because I, personally, have no luck. Others living in places with abundant rainfall and mild temperatures might consider themselves lucky, in the garden anyway. I enjoy researching so seeking out plants that thrive in dry conditions and tolerate sub zero temperatures isn't a deal breaker for me.

    Back to luck. I keep buying those lotto tickets:)

  18. I've always found that luck seems to go hand in hand with hard work!
    Glad I found your blog; I'll be interested to watch your garden progress into summer.

  19. I agree that luck is made with hard work. An optimistic spirit that can adapt to circumstances helps a lot, too!

  20. I believe it takes hard work and good luck to have a great garden. But in fengshui, it is believed that if you make the effort (which starts with hard work) to grow a garden that blooms and bear fruits, good luck will come to you.


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