Garden Design: Quantity vs. Quality

There’s an old saw, probably apocryphal, about a ceramics teacher who divided her class in two, made one half spin as many pots as possible while the other struggled to create one perfect pot. The students who were graded by quantity rather than quality made the best pots. I’ve noticed, from the years I used to be in the art world, that he most talented creative folks I’ve met crank out lots of material.

So how do we apply the quantity over quality principle to laying out a garden–especially since you often get only one chance a year to get it right? Above you see some of Kelly’s ideas for the parkway garden we planted in the fall. I think it is at this first point in the process–when you’re just sketching out ideas–when it’s best to generate as many drawings a possible, stick them on a wall and see which ones pop out. I think Kelly made more than the three drawings we saved, but we certainly could have done more–I’d say 20 minimum.

Part of what we learn by focusing on quantity is about making mistakes and learning from them. But I think there’s more to it than that. A gifted high school English teacher of mined likened our creativity to a tank of water. Sometimes you have to drain off the not so great ideas at the top in order to get to the good stuff that lies deep in our unconscious. Letting go of stifling perfectionism also forces us to try out ideas that might not have come to us otherwise.

I wish you all a quantitative 2013. Best of luck with your gardens!

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  1. Love this! Will certainly keep it in mind as we ponder our own garden again this year.
    Being at a community garden that is not protected, we have actually lost a variety of things, so we are pretty limited to what we can grow there without worry of theft.

    • Growing food in our parking strip, we learned the best things to grow in public were 1) greens (no one steals them) and 2) things that share easily, like cherry tomatoes or prolific beans. Things you never want to grow are big investment plants, like watermelon, cabbage ….or squash. Look at our Squash Baby tag if you want to hear a sorry story of public gardening.

  2. I found your blog by searching for chickens through Pinterest. I’ve just spent the past two hours happily reading about the girls and the cats and the goats and the pea eating Chihuahua….Had to skip the turkey thing though! Will save the rest of the blog for tomorrow. Very informative and entertaining!

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