Cogitating is one of my husband’s favorite words and it’s no wonder, Tim is a man who likes to think about things. In fact, he values thinking about stuff for a long time; weighing pros and cons and examining issues and possibilities from every angle.

By and large, I’m not a cogitator. I’m a doer. And when I’m not doing, I’m procrastinating. I like to believe I’m quick-witted, and smart about some things, but in general I’m emotional and intuitive rather than thoughtful.

This past summer I took a photograph of a man cogitating. The image, made at RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Yorkshire, England, shows a man dressed for brisk weather, even in July, sitting on a semicircular bench situated within the long border.

The perfect bench at RHS Harlow Carr.

The perfect bench at RHS Harlow Carr.

I know the man was cogitating because I watched him pace the dimension of the bench before sitting down, and after I took the photograph, I saw him motion his wife over to examine the seat too. He was cogitating, in the full sense of the word—pondering, even musing—what a similar bench would be like in his own garden.

When I look at this picture now, so many months later, I feel the joy of that day. I experience again the pure glee that so many gardeners visiting Harlow Carr, be they from Yorkshire or South Carolina, were engaged in a day of discovery.

I wonder, though, if the man noted the window-like paving that grounded the bench and its clever suggestion that a seat within a border creates a unique view. And if, when he built his bench at home, he thought to place an enchanting, peek-a-boo screen of grasses to flutter in the breeze like curtains?

Recently, I told my readers in The Greenville News that I would cogitate about a new planting scheme for the large, half-moon-shaped bed that comprises the view from my home’s front windows. I want to transform this space to add more color, not only with blooms, but also with foliage, and I know this action merits thoughtful consideration.

But perusing photos for inspiration, searching shade-gardening books for plant options, weighing pros and cons and examining issues and possibilities from every angle doesn’t feel like progress to me; it feels like procrastination.

What I really want to do is to commence digging, prying out old Clarissa hollies and the mishmash, dog’s dish of evergreen azaleas. My fingers itch to transplant the hellebores from their hideout under the dogwood tree to the foot of the bed where eyes can more easily find their luminous flowers. I’m eager to spread a life-sustaining layer of compost and, most of all, I’m desperate for the streak of genius that will produce the perfect plan in five-minutes flat. Or less.

Problem is, can I do it? Can I rely solely on heart and intuition? Or by embracing my own method, will I end up with just an ordinary space, rather than a unique and magical garden to fill my window on the world?

14 thoughts on “Cogitating

  1. Anita Humphries

    Love this. I find myself “jumping before looking” when it comes to planting many times. Thanks for reminding me to cogitate!

  2. Debra Strange

    Hi Marian! Looking forward to visiting your blog regularly. As to cogitating, I do sometimes dwell on a thing for awhile, but mostly I follow a wild hair and then my garden feeds back to me what it wants. Some years it seems to be planting itself behind my back!

  3. Ellen

    You know I am more like Tim. I would first take everything out that’s coming out and wait. Then put in the compost and wait. Then sit in your office and wait. When you have gardening friends over get their ideas and wait.
    You always want your pregnancies to be full term.

  4. Jean

    How beautifully you tied all this together! Surely you had to cogitate in order to do this.
    I think there’s another process between cogitation and action, which involves simply storing an idea mentally and letting the mind do its work, much more effortless than active cogitation—and in my case more trustworthy.
    Keep up the good work!

  5. Sandra E. Hamann

    It’s nice to know that others take photos of garden benches! I have more than handfull or two in my photo files. I drop hints and I leave them for my husband to cogitate upon. Now that you mention it, the benches that have materialized past the cogitating stage, are benches that have a grounding. I loved your window pane and curtain illusions….Perhaps the ideas that are ruminated about, are best. Here I thought he was worried about load bearing, suitability for the elements, and materials. I’m all for building it and we’ll find a place for it. Perhaps he’s an artist after all!

  6. Nina Huffstetler

    Hi Berry and Stacy, here is a blog Marian st. Clair just started. I thought her first post was meaningful (in more than one way) and nicely written. Hope you enjoy.

    Sent from my iPhone

  7. Karen Allen

    Let me throw a cog in your ‘tatin! If you think ivy is hard to pull out, wait until you try hellebores. They will seed and strangle everything within a 1/2 acre.Beautiful but very aggressive. I spent 3 weekends last spring deheading to try to prevent their spread.There are still millions of seedlings. Maybe you should pull yours out with the azaleas rather than move them.

    1. Sandra Hamann

      I’ve got to agree with Karen, Hellabores are great as an evergreen and vole proof plant…they also hold a bank, but I would also advise to “practice birth control” and deadhead before going to seed as a control factor. Be certain you want to allocate space to this space hog!

  8. Janet, The Queen of Seaford

    Wonderful second post Marian. To redo another garden bed is quite an undertaking. I like the idea of having the Hellebores where they can be seen better. Mine are in the woods and not easily seen.
    I don’t think you will end up with an ordinary space. It will be your space, plant choices and arrangement will have your touch. Can’t wait to see what you do.


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