Perfection, c’est impossible.

One thing I love about gardening is that you, the gardener, cannot be held fully responsible for the finished product. Sure, you can prep and plant and prune to your heart’s delight, but ultimately, it is the plant, the weather, the soil, the angle of the sun that determines the final outcome. I conclude that it is impossible to be a perfectionist in the garden.

Which works just fine for me, because perfectionism and I just don’t jive. Take my latest home improvement project.  I decided to paint my son’s bedroom. This was no ordinary paint job. An industrious previous owner of my home decided, I’m guessing sometime in the ’50s, to convert said bedroom into wood paneled den, complete with a wall of custom built book shelves, a built-in desk, and  tv / record player cabinets., all in natural pine.  I removed half of the built-ins, but was left with two walls of knotty pine, one wall of shelving and one wall full of holes where the tv cabinet used to be. Oh, and water damage on the ceiling. So I sanded. I caulked. I mudded. I spackled.  I learned how to patch large holes in drywall.  (Check it out. Brilliant. ) And then, after a violent rain uncovered a serious masonry problem in our chimney, I mudded and sanded some more.


Finally it was time to paint. I realized, as I was rushing through this step, that I was rushing through this step. All that prep work was essential, but would be for naught if I rushed the final steps.  I always start out with the greatest of intentions, but fade when the project drags on longer than my energy burst.  And then it hit me:  this is why I love to garden.  I start out all jazzed up.  I add compost, I dig all the rocks out of the soil, and then toss in  a bulb or some seeds.  But then magic happens. All that prep is just right for the living organism that will turn itself into art.  Heck, I didn’t even plant the grape tomatoes that have graced my table for the last few months. They volunteered in my neglected but very well prepared raised vegetable bed.

When you come to visit, you will stay in the nice looking but decidedly imperfect green bedroom with white trim. You will eat, however, fabulous grape tomatoes. It really is great to share the responsibility. Try this Pico de Gallo recipe from Emiril Lagase. It will make your perfect tomatoes even better.


  • 1  1/2 cups seeded, diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon diced jalapenos
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, plus extra for garnish
  • Salt and pepper

In a bowl combine all ingredients.


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10 responses to “Perfection, c’est impossible.

  1. I thought when I retired I would tackle all sorts of home projects: decorating, renovating, spiffing the place up… but instead I am in the garden where, as you so clearly write, the rewards are so much greater, the work so much easier with nature’s help. I’m glad to know you feel the same way : )

    I love those little red jewels of tomatoes!

    • Thanks Laurrie – It is hard, I admit, to tackle all those indoor projects when the sun is shining and there are flowers to plant. Hard to do it when the sun isn’t shining and their are gardening magazines to look at. It is, as you say, all about the rewards!

  2. I am a perfectionist, at least in some areas, including prepping and painting rooms. As such, that task usually falls to me around here, although it’s not my favorite thing to do. I feel your pain on the built-ins, we had some here too that were bolted to the walls, and left enormous holes to be repaired. I do love gardening though because, as you suggest, it’s not all under our control. It forces me to ‘let go’ a little, and wait and see what happens.

    • Hi CV – Ah ha – so now I know who to call when I need those last little details done right. Good to know. Don’t hear me complaining about the built-ins – love them, but boy what that a pain to paint. The “letting go” of gardening is what I love so much, I think.

  3. Can you snap a pic of the newly painted room too? And Yea for volunteers!

    • Hi Kay = I’ll have to snap some shots, and see if I can dig up some before pics too. Then you can really appreciate the enormity of the job and why I’m so darn finished with trying to make it right! Thanks for the comment.

  4. Dear Kelly, You know you are a very good writer … loved this post! I am not a perfectionist where painting is concerned, and I love grape tomatoes. So thanks for the invitation, and as I live less than 2 hours away, I’ll be right over. Pam x

  5. Hi,
    What a lovely post. I’m sooo not a perfectionist – I just want to get the job done – and so I particularly enjoyed this one. But, I will say I think your photos are quite ‘perfect.’ You have a good eye for the camera.

    • Whoa – Kate. Way to make a girl feel good. Thanks! See – nobody is going to appreciate that “perfect” cutting in around the crown molding, but they might appreciate my blog posts or my flowers by the sidewalks. And both of those with so much less pain and agony. Glad you enjoyed. K

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