Native Son: When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Growing

I am one of those people who has and always has believed that if you keep your eyes open you can learn from any experience. I normally use delivering Chinese food during my college days as my favorite example, but right now, the pile of mush that used to be my garden comes to mind. After that murderous Christmas freeze last month (hmmm… ”Santageddon?”), and the devastating Snowmaggedon last year, it may seem like time to throw in the towel. Good thing there’s an old adage for times like these … ”When the going gets tough, the tough get growing.” (Or something like that.) So put on your big boy or grown-up girl pants and let’s get this party started.

First thing, we’ve got to deal with these Blasted Garden Blues…

I woke up early this mornin’
 And I looked outside the do’,
Saw my pretty little garden done been blasted
 By Ol’ Man Winter, that’s fo’ sho’…

I got those Blasted Garden Blues…
I got those low down Blasted Garden Blue-oo-hoo-oos…

I done lost my Rapheolepis,
 My Mahonia’s in a funk,
My poor Azaleas are bare nekkid,
 And my Acer’s cracked right down the trunk…

I got those Blasted Garden Blues…
I got those Blasted Garden Blue-oo-hoo-oos…

Continued Below

Gain Perspective—

Let’s face it … “all you can really do in life is make a plan and see what happens.” Same with gardens.

Let It Out—

I also recognize the need for some mourning for what was lost. I get it … my plants are my babies, too. So take whatever time you need to come to grips with it all. Myself, I’m not there yet … hoping for February 1.

Give It a Little Time—

“Time heals all wounds.” Sure enough, while the tincture of time does indeed bring relief, it never seems to do it fast enough for impatient gardeners like me. Mother Nature’s timetable rarely lines up with ours, as she operates in seasons, years, decades, centuries, and millennia, where people prefer hours, days, weeks, and months.

Cut Yourself Some Slack—

First off, gardening here in Texas is like a house of mirrors inside a shooting gallery … it’s all moving targets and blinded by illusion stuff. Freak freezes, sizzling summers, devastating droughts, wicked winds, deadly diseases, insect invasions… All of this can bring even the most seasoned gardeners to their knees, whether they do so in defeat or in prayer. (I usually opt for both.) And if you survive all of that, your neighbor … the one who borrowed your chainsaw … has come over to your house while you were at work and “helped you out” by topping your crape myrtles.

Continued Below

Keep Calm & Carry On—

Always remember: “Nothing is more beautiful than next year’s garden.”

Grab a seed catalog and begin.

Just in case the glory of springtime has slipped your mind … in about 75 days … Mother Earth awakens.

A carpet of Grape Hyacinth…
The Longview Arboretum will soon begin to celebrate Spring with Daffodils.

“Nothing heralds spring like a tulip!” –Clara Wilson

Poppies & Larkspur & Ornamental Iron
Iris Splendor

Columbine among Japanese Maple.
Fern unfurling.
Chandor Gardens in spring bloom.

A most useful garden element: a white picket fence. Everything looks good in front of it, behind it, or on it. It looks good brand new, peeled and gray, or half-fallen rickety.


Why are husbands like lawnmowers?
They are difficult to get started, emit foul smells, and don’t work half the time.

Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing more than cabbage with a college education. –Mark Twain


Just so you know … the Longview Arboretum & Nature Center is OPEN! Hours are 10am-5pm, Wednesday through Saturday; Sunday 12 noon-5pm. Come out and see us! And bring your own brand of Zen! 903-212-2181

I need a road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come and speak to your group sometime. I’m low maintenance, flexible, and you know I like to go just about anywhere. No city too big; no town too small. Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll work something out.

Posted by Steven Chamblee
Back To Top