How To Plant A Flower Garden



How to Plant a Flower Garden


1 . Notice a sunny patch in your yard. Decide it’s the perfect spot for a flower garden. 

2 . Think about, have big plans for it, for no less than 5 years.

3 . Pour over the gardening book you got as a housewarming gift. Start a spreadsheet listing all the plants you like; chart their color, height, bloom times, spacing.

4 . Procrastinate. (Minimum time: one year.) Maybe have a baby, if you’re so inclined.

5 . In early spring, tear small orange Post-It notes in half and label them with the names of the plants you’d like to see out your front kitchen window, preferably ones that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Arrange Post-it’s on a white sheet of paper labeled “Flower Garden.” Stare at it. Clean out your fridge. Rearrange where the plants will go. Do your taxes. Organize your storage room. Contemplate Irises (are they worth it?) and get real honest about your capacity for managing Roses.

Rescue the paper from it’s perilous migration towards the kids’ activity involving scissors. Grocery shop. Get a haircut. Re-make all the pieces of paper and re-label (you can’t remember where you put the rescued one). Change all 4 kid’s clothes to the current season. Convince yourself you haven’t thought this through enough.

Go to the plant store with your toddler and the “Flower Garden” paper. Buy a bunch of plants that strike your fancy. (Only one of them is on your list.)

Drive around looking at every yard in the neighborhood, the neighboring neighborhoods, the random neighborhoods you cruise through to avoid traffic and get to that friend you see only once in awhile. Notice: not a lot of people have flower gardens. Get discouraged. Go buy more plants.

When, in passing on your way to one of your children’s friend’s birthday parties/extended-season soccer practices, your husband asks what all the plants sitting on the porch are for, casually say “my flower garden.”

Come home to the grass ripped up and the soil tilled in the spot, six years ago, you told him you wanted to plant a flower garden. Try not to be mad that he took you seriously. 

Start another “Flower Garden” paper (you can’t find the others), arrange and rearrange the little Post-It’s labeled, this time, with the actual plants you have until you finally think screw it and get dressed in the cornflower blue tank top with the red and cream paint stains and the navy cut off sweatpants and put your old sneakers on and go outside.  

Grab the flowers and lay them out in the soil you have until you are happy with where they are and how they look. Put aside planning and move ahead with planting. Trust yourself. (You can go with your gut, you aren’t always wrong.) Appreciate the privilege inherent in the ability to make changes. Accept this little garden’s imperfection. Understand there is more potential in an actual garden than an unrealized idea. Smile over the literalness of this garden coming together organically. 

6. See metaphors everywhere. Water thoroughly. 





Sonya Spillmann


  1. This is why when given a plant or buy one I just stick them in the flower bed! That way it becomes a memory garden of plants that friends over the years plus the Iris’s i dug up from my parents home. I shared with my son,daughter and friends of mine that had been around my Mother over the years!

  2. Well written, Sonya. Yes, I see metaphors all over. I always said the only flowers I could ever nurture were three indoor roses. They were beautiful roses, only needed feeding 3-4 times a day, watering as often as needed, and sunshine as often as possible. They grew well, and became independent roses that are just as beautiful, and no longer need much from me. I am thankful for my three roses, and that they grew well and strong despite my efforts! Yes, I am talking about my daughters, not real flowers. I am the only person I know who has managed to kill orange trees (ones that were mature when I got to them) as well as just about every other plant I have tried to grow.

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