There are No Green Thumbs
I want to dispel the myth of "The Green Thumb". People talk about that discolored appendage like its a God given blessing that one's born with, like being ambidextrous or having an acute sense of smell. Gardeners are not plant whisperers. We don't have an innate ability to keep plants alive, any more than mechanics have a knack for keeping cars running. You have to start out by getting your hands dirty and changing the oil, taking on larger projects as you go, reading the manual and asking your friends for help when you make mistakes.
And you will make mistakes. Once you get over that little fact of gardening, you're invincible! Just don't go running in front of any cars unless they're parked.
Be Willing to Learn
Whenever the topic of gardening comes up with an acquaintance, they invariably say something along the lines of "I kill everything I try to grow! I guess I have a black thumb."
I would then ask the coworker what she tried growing. "Oh, I don't know what it was. It had green leaves and... I think it had flowers or something. I just can't keep anything alive for some reason!"
The reason is right there in front of you! How can you be expected to keep something alive if you don't even know what it is? That would be like expecting to cook a world class dinner on the first try without a recipe. Oh its possible alright, but your chances of success are much better when you take the time to flip through the pages of a good book.
Each Garden is Different
Here in Florida, the difference is pretty obvious. Remember that coworker with the "Black Thumb"? Well, now I'll share the plight of another coworker that has another issue. She plants hyacinths and tulips in spring, only to find them curl up their toes every year. The English ivy that did so well up north is out of control in her garden, and looks awful during our wet summers. The Kentia palm she bought is hardy here, but still fails miserably thanks to our hot evenings in summer.
This coworker doesn't really have all of these problems, but if she did, she could blame it all on location. Her climate should really give her the old "It's not you, it's me" speech. Read books that are written for your region, and look at what your neighbors are growing. Look for your local Extension Office online, and read what they have to say before planting those plants that you grew back home. You're not in Kansas anymore... unless of course, you really do live in Kansas.
Celebrate the Death of Your Plants
Each time you kill a plant, you've just learned one way not to do it the next time. I woke up yesterday morning to find that my (very valuable) Japanese samurai orchid had one foot in the grave.
It shot me a withering look that said "You have dishonored your family by failing to water me, and now my time has come."
Before I could say a word, my neofinetia falcata commited seppuku and dropped the last of its leaves in a pile around the glazed bonsai pot, each curved leaf like a diminutive sword.
While I feel awful about my doomed orchid, I know that Akira (that was his name) will be reincarnated in another impulsive plant sale purchase. When I stroll past my new purchase, I'll feel a haunting breeze pass my ear, whispering "Mist leaves, water twice a week... regain your honor!"
Listen to Your Friends
I asked my friends on Facebook and Twitter what advice they would give to a new gardener. Though none of these tips included a story about seppuku committing orchids, my friends offered some excellent tips. I'll add more as you share them via the comments or on Twitter or Facebook.
Darren Sheriff, AKA The Citrus Guy
"If in doubt, ASK! I know some people that wanted to get into gardening, thought they knew what they were doing, they didn't. Then ended up getting very frustrated and gave up."
"I had TONS of advice for my son, who just bought a house. He'd tell you, "Ignore your Mom."
Laura Mathews of Punk Rock Gardens
"Nurturing soil nurtures your plants."
Laura Wright of Mindful Garden Design
"Start small. It'll save money and tears."
Derek Powazek of Plantgasm
"Only buy pots you actually like looking at, because you'll be carrying them around for years." Derek also shared a link to a great post for new gardeners.
Helen Yoest of Gardening With Confidence
Helen shared a link to an excellent article she wrote about, you guessed it! Gardening with confidence!
@stefsstuff on Twitter
"Keep it simple and native w/some specimen plants" "Oh, & if you live in Fl and want to do pots, empty them in the summer as it's hard to keep up with them." "MULCH & when mulching - don't be stingy, just make sure to pull it away from base of plant or tree."
David Cristiani of The Desert Edge
"Generously embrace the native plants that make your area great, and use them well!"
Carol Silrum of Carol Silrum Art Jewelry
"Get your soil tested, (we use Neil Kinsey), that way you can add the right amendments. Then mulch and talk to local nurserymen."
Kelly Thorpe Schubert
"Discover your County Extension! They can tell you what to plant where, with the greatest chance for success."
Roger Waynick, Cool Springs Press"Buy a gardening book!"
Successful gardening all starts with the soil - best lesson I ever learned.
Dream big, but set realistic seasonal goals. Consider joining a gardening or flower club or society. Finally, don't fear the Latin.
Shannon Harper"Water your plants."
Nancy Bond of Leaping Greenly
"Know what grows well in your area...don't give up. :)"
Do you have some words of wisdom too? Leave your advice with the comments and I'll try to post them with a link to your blog. Also, don't forget to join the party on my Facebook page and on Twitter!