Loosely translated, laissez-faire means “let things be” or “hands off.” The more time I spend in the garden, the more I like this approach. It’s so easy to get distracted by all of the rules of gardening that we sometimes forget to have fun. Isn’t that why we garden in the first place?

A while back, I was giving a talk to a garden club about a recent trip that Rachel and I had taken to a national rose garden. During the Q&A, I was asked about the technique that I use to prune roses. I responded, “Just let the rosebush reveal itself as you prune it, because each one is unique.”

She was so concerned about making cuts at the proper angles and counting the number of leaflets to determine where to make the cuts.

In a final burst of exasperation she asked, “How do I know which direction the bud eyes are facing as I make the cuts?”

I told her, “Just relax and try not to get hung up on all the things you’re supposed to do. Trial and error is the best way to learn. I never think about all the so-called rules. If your roses look pretty to you, that’s all that matters.”

Once you understand what plants need to thrive, the sometimes pretentious rules of gardening should only serve as guidelines. Every now and then, someone will ask me to help them design a garden. That’s not really something I like to do. Every garden should be a reflection of its gardener. Plant the things that you like, however you like, and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Don’t be afraid to follow your whims. You don’t need an expert to tell you what to do in your own backyard. Mind you, the front yard should blend in with the aesthetics of your neighborhood, but in the backyard, anything goes. If you like pink flamingos and garden gnomes, indulge yourself.    

I’m not one of those gardeners who makes meticulous sketches of each flower bed, and I don’t keep a conventional journal. I have lots of notes scattered all over my office. I do take pains to rotate my vegetables, but that’s about it. Rachel gardens with a plan. I garden according to the way I feel. We balance each other out.  Don’t let your gardening tasks become chores. On any given day, there’s always something else you can do. Find something to do that suits your mood. When I want to unwind from a particularly stressful day, weeding is my go-to task. The repetitive act of pulling weeds is a wonderful stress reliever. Improvise freely, but be prepared to make mistakes. Some of my favorite discoveries were made unknowingly. For example, our herbs produce some of the prettiest flowers in our garden. They also attract the greatest number of pollinators, including hummingbirds. If I hadn’t decided to see what happens when herbs go to seed, I would never have discovered their beautiful flowers.          

The joy of gardening is in the creation. Savor each task. Take the time to enjoy yourself.

Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at rnlyes@hotmail.com