Garden Fails and Successes

Jul 31, 2020 | The Parisienne Farmhouse | 10 comments


A late July Garden Tour (with a purpose). If we are going to talk about gardening fails and success then we need to start with this point first…

Gardening is always about next year.

That’s my quote and I stand by it.   I don’t say it to take away from living in the moment and enjoying the heady scent of a rose or the dirt under your fingernails… In fact, any garden has wins and fails every year and while the wins bring the most delight, it’s the fails that teach us to hone our skills and become our very best gardener. And that’s what I set out to do this year – become my very best gardener.

This is the third year here at Sur le Rocher Country House and Gardens.   Our little “everday château” tucked in the woods, just moments from Lake Michigan.   Dense with ash and white pine and the invasive, acidic junipers, this garden has been carved out of the woods and every flower, every green bean, every herb, represents early mornings and late evenings and humid afternoons of perspiration, diligence and straight-up LABOR.  

No complaints here.   This girl was made for work, but late July is a time to look back and celebrate all that that’s done and learn from my mistakes.

Twilight in the Garden

I spent some outdoors the other night. It was twilight in the garden and the storms were rolling in and out. My thoughts were rolling too as I tried to look pragmatically at my fails and look with celebration at my wins.

I prefer to learn first and celebrate later so here’s fail number one:

I changed my seed starting medium this winter and some of my seedlings didn’t care for the change.   My beloved snapdragons in particular.   So, though it’s late July and I should have mounds and bouquets of my signature snaps… I don’t.   No Madame Butterfly… no Potomac Apple Blossom.   I can’t think about it too much or I’ll cry.   And yes, I did cry. I’ve been growing snaps for twenty-five years. In a desperate move, I ordered very costly flats of the two varieties, but they couldn’t be delivered until early July.   So hopefully by the snowfall, I’ll have some snapdragons.    Hardy, har, har.

Fail number two?  We were too exhausted to finish the raised beds.   If you watch the video, and I hope that you do, you’ll see way in the back of the garden my thought process and creativity sorta peeters out.   Turns out that hauling logs out of the forest all spring got the better of our bodies and by June I waived the white flag of surrender.   The cow was being delivered and the three remaining, log-cabin style raised beds would have to wait.   They’re still waiting.   

Fail number three?  My herb garden.   Half of it is AH-mazing.   The other half?  NOT so much.   It’s like my red-headed stepchild garden apparently (sorry to all my ginger, step-friends out there).   I just can’t get inspired to do anything with it.   I popped some lilac in there.   Some Lady of Shallot David Autins… and nada.   The one half is simply lame.   I’m resigned to be OK with that and when my world is buried in three feet of shimmering white, I’ll get out my books and my sketchbook and let the inspiration come to me.  Herb garden?   One half prolific.  The other half – total bust.

And the BIGGEST fail of the year?   The big pond.   This project was SO labor intensive, I again grabbed my white flag and for the sake of m y aching bones (and our well pump), I gave in.   

The excavator dug it out down to the bedrock when he was here this spring helping us clear land for Fern’s pasture.   I then took some hand-me-down pond liners and proceeded to attempt to patch them together.   We harvested TONS of rocks from the land, formed out a waterfall… planted a willow… filled it and it was GORGEOUS, even though we didn’t have enough plant material to cover the rockery hill.   And then by the end of the week it was dry.   I fought back and filled it a few more times simply because it was so gorgeous.  But the truth is, I need a professional to come in and take what we’ve done and simply do it right.   And I’m a big enough girl to admit that.   We were on our way to gorgeous and we can be proud of the COUNTLESS hours we put into it.   Before we know it, the waterfall will be singing to us, and the Sister Bay sky will be reflecting in this huge water feature.   

If I’m going to be someone who decides to DO IT ALL then at the same time I have to be the same kind of person who can look failure in the face. 



Move forward.

You’ll come to see that a man learns nothing from winning. The act of losing, however, can elicit great wisdom. -Uncle Henry from “A Good Year”

Now for the good bits.   The WINS!

My new lavender beds are a TOTAL win!    They are the clean, edited, tidy addition that my potager needed.   And the copious amounts of lavender I’ve harvested so far should be criminal, their musky scent warming just about every room in the house.   Steeping in almond oil for winter skin treatments, steeping in honey for my lavender honey latté addiction and tucked here there and everywhere to remind me of the joys of the garden.

The raised beds that we did finish are a TOTAL success.   Last year’s market rows provided VERY little produce.  It’s simply impossible to keep out the invasive wild thyme and ever more harassing, wild oregano.    But the log-cabin-style beds we made have done two things for us.  They’ve thinned out the forest in the back of the garden and given us the delineation and rustic formality the potager needed, never mind the amazing weed control and soil management.   The produce this year has been AMAZING and I’ve already got my fall crops planted in many of them.

My rose collection is to be celebrated.   Year to date, I have 35 roses in my garden.   Thirty-four of them are carefully selected David Austins that will someday complete the vision for this space.   While they hit their peak a few weeks ago, and so they don’t have a spotlight in this particular video, you can see them in other episodes of “Potager”.   I know many of them will  give me one more go-round in a few weeks, and then I’ll tuck them under leaves and kiss them goodnight for the winter.    They are so beautiful to me and are to be celebrated, indeed.

And it’s imperative that we make lemonade out of lemons (by lemon trees are a win too now that I think of it), but in the case of my giant, leaking pond… it has become a giant rainwater playpen for my ducklings we are raising for a fall harvest.   Their antics provide us with many laughs, they are SO much happier than in the garage under a heat lamp AND… well… a winter’s worth of duck fat in the larder does a body good.   

If you’d like to see ariel footage of the July garden and hear more about the successes and failures of the space so far this year, I think you’ll enjoy this Youtube video (speaking of FAILS?   Hahahahah, filming this video was TOTAL chaos… thunderstorms, a setting sun, grainy drone clips and a camera unknowingly set on the wrong setting!)  

The show must go on!   Successes and failures are a part of life from camera settings to the garden.

C’est la vie! And that’s fine with me.

I appreciate you being here. -Angela


  1. Vicki Sakioka

    I loved this video and wish it was more detailed and longer. I have watched you build it all and it is stunning now
    I have a small 1960 s track home in Orange County, Ca. I have transformed it into a Cottage with a Cottage garden. At my age this is all I can handle and especially alone
    I envy your space but I’m so enjoying you and Shayne and the videos you share

  2. Carole Prisk

    Always enjoy your garden posts and look forward to seeing all you and your family accomplish. I am sure I could not “harvest” the ducks and would soon be over run with them when winter came. Too cute to eat.

  3. Prudence

    It sounds like you do a ton with your garden! I love raised beds, too. Our next door neighbors did a row garden this year. Their tomatoes and onions did okay, but everything else got overrun with weeds. Meanwhile I’m over the fence trying to spread the gospel of raised beds, my 4×4′ squares overflowing with weedless herbs, gourds, peppers, parsnips and volunteer Bells of Ireland. And that’s not even the garden I take care of. LOL.

    Raised beds for the win!

  4. Ellie Harrison

    I appreciate your honesty in sharing both the joys and disappointments in your garden. As a fellow gardener, I know how frustrating it is when something doesn’t grow or turn out like I intended. I like your saying about gardening is always about next year. I think of that a lot like right now when heavy rain has pushed the big beautiful blooms to the ground on my limelight hydrangeas. Next year I won’t prune them and see if the stems will be stronger. “Live and learn”, is another good saying for a gardener. Glad your lavender is doing well! Here in Virginia I have struggled to grow lavender, and I love it so!

  5. Sandy Van Dyk

    You are an inspiration, Angela. Thank you for sharing your beauty with us. Question: I’m 61, a Gigi to 9 littles, have chickens, huge garden, love to cook, admire beauty of all sorts and a stroll through Nordstrom, buying now & then. Am I too old for the Patron group? I listen to the podcast & laugh often, always enjoying the content even though my life isn’t that of a homesteader. You two keep up the good words, godly lifestyle, common sense and love for our beautiful country!

  6. Deanna Rabe

    I watched your video yesterday and loved it. It’s what I love about Gardener’s World – successes and failures are a part of gardening and life! It’s okay to have both. We learn something and we move on.

    I also enjoy the podcast. I’m older than you but I find myself nodding and smiling and I feel like I’m in the company of kindreds!

  7. Lisa Broome

    Enjoyed your video. Can you tell me what blue flowers that you planted in your garden? I am going to try to plant several blues with my purples.

    Au re re·voir,


  8. Mary Carpenter

    Lovely garden, Angela. The circular pond looks like it’s been there forever. The roses, lavender, potted topiaries, benches, new raised beds all naturally elegant complimenting existing beds and rock walls. Oh, those rock walls. Stunning. Beauty, peace and inspiration all around. Next year will be even better.

    New Hidcote Lavenders failed here in Northern California this year. Never bloomed. No idea why. Made me sad all summer. Ordering Phenomenal Lavenders for Septembers shipment. Try again.

    Next Spring should be glorious!

    Be well, Beautiful. Enjoy the rest of Summer in Door County.

  9. Revonda Brumfield

    Thank you for sharing your wins and losses. I think everything looks beautiful. You make my heart ache to 35, 40, 45 again, to have the health and strength to to what you do.

    Please appreciate every moment of your life. Appreciate your family, your health,your abilities, and your wonderful creativity. I know you do, but stop and truly give thanks to the Lord.

    We live in an amazing time that you can easily share what you do. But as you know our American Way of life is so very fragile now. I’m actually a bit fearful of our future. I know God is in control but our human-ness can be weak.
    Sorry..sappy tonight for some reason. I do love your channel and listening to you & Shaye. You’re both amazing women !!

  10. Paula

    I thoroughly enjoyed the written words and the video, Angela! I am very impressed with all of your hard work and the reward of your labors. When we lived in S. California, while raising our children, I had 38 roses bushes (a few were miniatures) and I loved having a bouquet of roses on our table most of the year (pruned in December and had blooms again by February). When we moved away to a rental before relocating to our retirement town, I would walk the neighborhoods and I was so tempted to go up to a door and ask if I could pick a bouquet of roses from some of the yards. 🙂 Where we moved, roses do not do well, especially since they are a special treat for deer, but I can grow lavender here, which I love and had no success growing in S. CA. Peonies grow well here and the deer leave them alone, but they only bloom once (gloriously) and then they are finished. Thank you for sharing the beauty of your garden.


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