Gardening With Confidence – what it means

Posted by on January 5, 2011

Over the years, I’ve posted many different topics under the blog title, Gardening With Confidence, but starting this year, I hope to better define gardening with confidence and what it really means.

During the 2010 holiday break, I revamped the focus of my blog.  Future posts will specifically be about how to garden with confidence.  The core topics will be garden essentials, including how-tos, maintenance, plant profiles, wildlife, and sustainability.  I will continue to write book and product reviews, share recipes, design ideas and, of course, write about great garden art!

Going forward, you will also be reading more about my garden travel.  I travel a lot for Gardening With Confidence and I want to be able to share more with you of what I see and find.  After all, seeing so many gardens for my work with Better Homes and Gardens, Country Gardens and as a volunteer with the Garden Conservancy, has helped me garden with confidence and I hope it will help you too.

For this first post of the new year, I thought I would share with you what I mean by gardening with confidence.

When you first hear the name, you might think it a bit cocky.  It’s not meant to be so.  The name was given to me by my husband, David, watching me work in the garden.  He said, “you really know how to garden with confidence.”  He later told me that I make it look so easy – he was always my biggest fan.  But I didn’t always garden with confidence.

Driven by the desire to really know how to garden, to be confident in the garden, not just the schooled part of design or plant culture or pruning basics, and what not, but really understanding and then learning what it is to garden.  I worried too much if I was doing it right. After awhile, I learned there isn’t really a whole lot I can do to mess up.  Alleviating this fear of messing up with a little logic and forethought, even those few major mistakes can be avoided.

Confidence building also comes from using the right tools, being prepared for the elements, and visiting other gardens and local arboretum in your area for ideas of what can grow.  Confidence also comes from meeting other gardeners, talking with the staff at your independent garden center, reading regional blogs, and even chatting on garden forums.  
The gardening  community is vast.  Every town has a go-to person or several for various interests.  Google any gardening topic and a hundred or more ways to do it will be available.  Go to plant sales, join a garden club, listen to lectures, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  I’ll bet, I ask at least one garden related question a day of someone who knows something I want to know…I’m down from a 100 ;~\  I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know.

Sometimes, I learn something of what I didn’t even know I should know.  Those are the best.   Somewhere along the way, I got so much confidence, that I was comfortable enough to say – I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m happy to look into it.  And that was when I really began to learn.

When you meet me, you’ll find I have the annoying little habit of picking your brain to learn what you know or how you go about doing a certain task.  My world is wide open for learning new ways to either benchmark, become better or to learn an easier way to do something.

In 2009 when I made the transition from a PC to a Mac, I would go to the Mac One-to-One classes, and depending on my instructor, determined what questions I would ask that day.  Each are trained on all their programs, so I can get all my basic questions answered from anyone, but I have a second list of questions to ask of those I want to dwell deeper with.  They know me now and are long past the corporate retort of telling me they are trained on all the programs, to telling me their Mac interest – iPhotos, iMovie, GarageBand, websites, blogs, etc.  When I have that bit of knowledge, I begin to ask questions, specific to their interest,  beyond my ability to absorb.

The same with horticulture or design.  If I meet a plant propagator, I don’t bother asking what their favorite flower is or tips to amend the soil; rather, I pull a question form my memory bank and ask questions like when and how to propagate a Chamaecyparis obtusa (Pygmaea Hinoki Cypress) or  there was the time when Tim Alderton from the JC Raulston Arboretum was over helping me answers questions in my garden, such as what is this larger growth coming out of my Philadelphus virginalis (Dwarf Snowflake Mock Orange)?  I asked if it was reverting.  Nope, he said, it was root stock from a birch (I believe it was a birch, I’ve already forgotten.)  Never be afraid of admitting what you don’t know and there are no stupid questions.  This is the secret to gaining confidence.  Gardeners are always at the ready to share information.

So, from the time I started gardening as a child with my dad showing me the way, and me, no doubt, annoying him with all my questions, to today, looking for what you can teach me, I garden with confidence.  I know that I can only mess up just so bad, and oh yes, plants do die and I didn’t necessarily kill them.

2011 marks my 10th year in business.  As the saying goes, it seems like yesterday.

Gardening With Confidence™ began on September 11, 2001.  Yep, that was the September 11th.  Technically, I formed the company sometime in late August, but I had my first appointment to meet a client at 1:00 on that horrid day.

Remembering back, because of the morning’s events, I called my client to confirm our appointment before heading over there.  I fully expected to re-schedule, but when I called, I only got his answering machine.  At first I was unsure what to do.  We just experienced the most devastating act of terrorism our country had ever known.  Keeping the appointment seemed so trivial; so minute; but I didn’t want to stand him up either.

When I knocked on the door, I stood back and said, “If you want to reschedule, I understand.”  He replied, “No, come on in, life has to go on.”  And it has, a least to the extent of never forgetting, but carrying on.  I worked that garden for 4 years until he moved and then I was hired by the new owners, who are still clients today and also great friends because, of course, we have a common interest – their garden.

Each future post will end with a personal experience – a quip – of how I gained that topic’s experience.  It will be called COLLECTING CONFIDENCE.   Because that’s how I did it, I started with one lesson then another.  It was like collecting.  Before I knew it I had a collection…and I’m still adding everyday.

Gardeners, like you, make the best resources, and better still when you put your guard down to ask teach me or show me or tell what do you think about this or that, you will gain a little bit more confidence.  

I hope I can teach you a little bit from my own garden experiences.  Since 1997, I’ve gardened on a half acre, wildlife habitat, on a suburban lot in Raleigh, NC in a garden I call Helen’s Haven.

I hope you will share with me your gardening experiences, a well.  You see, I didn’t learn to garden with confidence in a void, but rather from doing and learning from friends like you.

Helen  Yoest is a garden writer, speaker and garden coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™.

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook Friend’s page, Helen Yoest; or facebook Like page, Gardening With Confidence™

Helen is a field editor for Better Homes and Gardens and Country Gardens magazine and she also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum.


Helen is the founder, publisher and editor of:
Tarheel Gardening – your online resource for North Carolina gardening enthusiasts.

You can follow Tarheel on Twitter @TarheelGardenin and on facebook at Tarheel

9 responses to “Gardening With Confidence – what it means”

  1. Layanee says:

    I love the explanation of your gardening style and blog title. I know many beginning gardeners and even seasoned gardeners lack confidence in gardening to try anything new and it even prevents them from doing something simple such as starting a seed. As I always tell them ‘What is the worst that can happen? It is not as if you are sending food to starving children’. I am going to master some new skills this gardening season. Why not? Stop learning….spade away.

  2. Frances says:

    Hi Helen, this is a wonderfu way to start a brand new year. May your endeavors continue to be successful, and may you never stop learning!


  3. HelenYoest says:

    Thanks Layanee…indeed – spade away! Love that. H.

  4. HelenYoest says:

    Yes Frances, a new year, fresh starts…it’s a wonderful thing. Thank you! H.

  5. caroyn choi says:

    Being born and raised in a garden I guess I suffer from over confidence sometimes 🙂 Love your revamp for the New Year , Helen and look forward to reading about your gardening experience in Helen’s Haven and elsewhere.

    BTW, would you consider adding me to your blogroll? I know you’re on mine.

  6. HelenYoest says:

    Thanks Carolyn and consider it done. I don’t know it isn’t there!

  7. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Helen, may you continue as you have begun! Keep growing and learning 🙂

  8. HelenYoest says:

    Thanks Cindy!

  9. Kelly says:

    Bravo, Helen. I’ll be in touch …

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